Election Result in Indonesia

The Country Is Firmly on the Democratic Road

The course has been set: with many of the votes counted in the Indonesian presidential election, it's clear that the former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the winner. This analysis is by Sybille Golte.

The corse has been set: with many of the votes counted in the Indonesian presidential election, it's clear that the former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the winner. This analysis is by Sybille Golte.

photo: AP
Indonesia's new President to be: ex-general Yudhoyono

​​ Even though the final official result will only be announced on October 5th, the election has been decided. An outsider has made the running: the former general and minister for security, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The incumbent president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is trailing 20% behind Yudhoyono in what was the first direct presidential election in the history of the country.

Why did she lose out so badly?

There are enough reasons for the dramatic loss in support suffered by the incumbent. When she came into power, she rode on a broad wave of sympathy on the part of the impoverished masses; this time, it's exactly the same people who have refused to follow the former symbol of the democratic opposition.

Many Indonesians had hoped that the political instability which followed the overthrow of the dictator Suharto at the end of the nineties would give way to more prosperity, stability and justice. But the country is still a long way from such conditions. With the withdrawal of the military into its barracks the country has become less secure. Corruption remains the energising principle behind much economic and social activity.

President-elect Yudhoyono, a general under Suharto and security minister under Megawati, has profited from this disillusion. He's succeeded in distancing himself from the failures of his predecessor and the shadows of the former military-backed regime.

His anti-terror strategy enjoys the approval of the United States and the recent terrorist attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta will have won him more votes from worried voters. In addition, his opponent's tactical decision to ally herself with the Golkar party of the former dictator Suharto played into his hands by damaging her credibility.

Yudhoyono says he wants to see international institutions and mediators involved in regional conflicts. It remains to be seen if that will work. The same applies for the other election promises which SBY, as the Indonesians call him, has made.

Everyone wants more prosperity for all, but international investors are holding back. China is often more attractive, Indonesia has many infrastructure problems and a corrupt justice system. It's bribes which lubricate the domestic market.

Yudhoyono will need staying power to dry out the swamp. He's offered little more than promises so far, but he still embodies an image of hope which Megawati once had but has now lost.

Democracy is Megawati's big achievement

But poverty and corruption perhaps hide the real achievement of the incumbent president. It's her government's achievement that, according to all the monitors, the elections this year have been democratic and non-violent.

Indonesia is now firmly on the democratic road, within just a few years of the peaceful end of the dictatorship.

Fears, especially on the part of the US and Australia, that Indonesia would turn into a operative base for Islamist terrorists, have proved groundless. The parliamentary elections last spring showed that the country with the largest Muslim population in the world is far from being a breeding ground for fundamentalism.

Sybille Golte

DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE © 2004

Translation from German: Michael Lawton

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