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Bigger Picture Politics

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With the presidential election just days away Indonesia is awash with political news. The burning question on everyone’s mind is who will lead Indonesia for the next five years? Polls have voters at a 50-50 split between (relative) political newcomer Joko Widodo, and the well-known Prabowo Subianto. After ten years of stable yet cautious democracy under outgoing President Susilo Bamabang Yudhoyono much of the world is waiting to see who Indonesia’s next President will be.

Many in the West are concerned that the possible election of Prabowo Subianto (accused human rights violator) might indicate a return to some form of authoritarian rule. This assumption is not aided by the manner in which Western media has chosen to convey the upcoming election. Rather than a presidential campaign, audiences are being told that this is a battle between democracy and dictatorship. Yet this view only highlights how out of touch the world is with Indonesian politics.

The Soeharto era is over, and authoritarian rule in Indonesia is dead. Indonesians have used their collective voice to embrace an (albeit) imperfect yet evolving form of democratic governance. The election of either Jokowi or Prabowo will not change this fact; the lessons of reformasi cannot simply be forgotten. Instead, Indonesia stands on the precipice of an exciting new era. The next 10-15 years, will see the nation firmly supplant itself as both leader of Southeast Asia, and capable regional power. And, as much as some Indonesian politicians might want to remain isolationist, engagement with the International Community is an inevitable byproduct of growth. With the eye of the world increasingly on Indonesia, democracy will no doubt become the only game in town.

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