International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

July 13, 2004

July 13, 2004





**  Writers laud the "smooth staging" of Indonesia's first direct presidential election. 


**  Skeptics warn the country still "may slip back" ahead of the September run-off. 


**  Papers term front-runner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) "honest" and "capable."


**  Conservative dailies express relief that "secular nationalists" won the election.




'We should rejoice at our achievement'--  Domestic writers waxed fulsome in praising Indonesia's "achievement in forging ahead with democracy."  The independent Jakarta Post hailed the "democratic fiesta" that spurred an "air of optimism"; leading Kompas concluded that the "people have achieved sovereignty."  Foreign outlets were equally optimistic:  A German paper termed the vote "the best news from Indonesia in a long time."  Asian writers agreed the "smooth and successful" voting confirmed Indonesia's status as a "functioning democracy." 


Massive 'problems of unemployment and poverty' remain--  A minority of observers stressed that the election "cannot automatically solve the fundamental problems" Indonesia faces.  Australia's liberal Age noted that "regardless of who wins the second round of elections...Indonesia's crippling problems will remain."  A Singaporean daily added that the country's "democratic institutions...still need to be built up."  Several Indonesian papers expressed concern that Indonesian leaders may contest the vote's results; independent Koran Tempo urged "eliminated candidates" to "receive the loss open-heartedly." 


'SBY is the right man for Indonesia'--  Indonesian papers avoided comment on the election outcome, but regional outlets cited "haphazard and lackluster" leadership to predict that President Megawati "will not be delivered a fresh term" in the runoff.  Japan's moderate Yomiuri blamed "corruption and growing instability" for Megawati's unpopularity; Australian outlets dismissed her presidency as "bumbling and without direction."  Writers noted SBY's "unheard-of popularity" due to his "image as a strong leader"; Malaysia's government-influenced Star described him as "tough, pro-active and sufficiently international."


A 'catastrophe for Islamic fundamentalists'--  Australian, Japanese and Singaporean outlets welcomed the election results as a blow against "theocratic rule in the world's largest Muslim nation."  The conservative Australian crowed that the "identifiably Islamic candidates appear to have run fourth and fifth in a field of five"; another Aussie commentator held that either SBY or Megawati would "be an ally against terrorism" and promote "inclusive Islam."  Singapore's pro-government Straits Times reflected a regional consensus that whoever wins must maintain a "non-ideological view of checking Islamic-centered terrorism."


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 34 reports from 11 countries over 4 - 11 July 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg




INDONESIA:  "It’s Time To Learn From People’s Virtues"


Leading independent Kompas commented (7/8):  "Finally, with all existing weaknesses, we should accept the results of the presidential elections. We respect the decision made by the people in exercising their sovereignty....  That from the mistake of casting ballots, which made some parties to take the case to the Constitutional Court, is something normal. Even in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, such an incident also happened, despite the fact that their democracy has been established. All parties respect the decision of an institution that we have appointed as the last judge. All parties must accept the verdict decided by the Constitutional Court, because it means that we are all together building this democracy.”


"The Future of Democracy At Post-2004 Presidential Election"


Eko Setio Budi wrote in nationalist Harian Merdeka (7/8):  "Political education and community empowerment must become one of the key agendas of the new government produced in the 2004 presidential election, as democracy requires full involvement of civilians, particularly pertaining to civil participation in policy making on the interests of the community, state and nation. The commitment to uphold democracy in Indonesia seems to have become the main commitment of presidential and vice presidential candidates. Therefore, the new government must materialize these basic issues. If it is done, it is very likely that the future of democracy in Indonesia will be bright.”


"The Election: So Far, So Good"


The independent English-language Jakarta Post editorialized (7/7):  "For once, at least in this sense, the presidential election could rightly be referred to as a 'democratic fiesta.'  To many Indonesians, however, the most encouraging aspect of Monday's presidential election has no doubt been the fact that the Indonesian electorate has turned out to be a good deal more intelligent and discriminating than many observers had initially expected, or feared....  Whatever qualities one can or cannot ascribe to the presidential candidates, voters were clearly looking for perceived leadership qualities in their leaders. There is clearly an air of optimism in the air following Monday's peaceful presidential election. Let us hope that this optimism will prove to be justified over the next five years.”


"Elections Do Not Solve The Fundamental Problems"


Leading independent Kompas observed (7/7):  "The excitement during the campaign period and the elections only turned us away for a moment from the existing problems. The elections cannot automatically solve the fundamental problems we are facing as a nation. Whoever is elected will not be able to quickly solve all these problems. It takes hard work and smart work of all components of this nation if we want to take our country and nation out of this critical situation....  The people must be given proper understanding of the country’s condition. They will be able to understand and participate in reconstructing this country so long as they are given an appropriate role model by the leaders of this country.”


"People Have Exercised Their Sovereignty"


Leading independent Kompas commented (7/6):  "Through direct presidential and vice presidential elections, a more extensive and concrete sovereignty are in the hands of the people.  It is a right and a responsibility.  A responsibility to further go along with or participate in the implementation of power, responsibility, and commitment of elected presidents and vice presidents....  It is impossible to build democracy at once.  In the development and implementation of democracy, it’s normal if there are weaknesses and problems.  Electing or not electing is the right of every citizen.  But as we realize that democracy will not happen in a single night, thus it’s better to elect.  That’s what many people have done.  We respect the people’s wise attitude....  While we think in great, serious, smart, and sincere manners, we are awaiting for the result of the presidential election on Monday July 5.  People have exercised their sovereignty “


"The Presidential Election"


Independent Media Indonesia declared (7/6):  "A new chapter in history, called the 'presidential election,' was written by us yesterday....  All of us Indonesians are in a waiting room, waiting hopefully and apprehensively for that new president. Who will the majority choose, then, to lead the country in the 2004-2009 five-year period? That is what we are waiting for. Without astonishing maturity and patience from the people, the country may slip back. Because of this, there is no excuse for the leaders to push the people aside. Don't hurt the people again."


"Awaiting Results"


Leading independent Kompas held (7/6):  "Indonesia is certainly an extraordinary country. It is rich in natural and human resources, varied in its cultural life and expression, strong in its togetherness, and sincere and honest when challenged to work hard, to do its utmost....  While thinking great, serious, intelligent and sincere thoughts like these, we await the result of the election. The people have achieved sovereignty in choosing a president and vice-president."


"Don’t Spoil Election Results!"


Muslim-intellectual Republika maintained (7/6):  "The coming days, until the results of the vote are revealed, will be a very stressful period.  First, it is predicted that no single president/vice president pair will reach 50 percent and this means there must be a second round of presidential elections.  Second, votes obtained by ‘favorite’ pairs will overtake each other....  Therefore, we call on those declaring themselves leaders, especially presidential and vice presidential candidates and their campaign teams, to adopt the attitude of statesmen; that in democracy to win or to lose is normal.  Those who win must devote their victory to the success of the country.  They must detach themselves from personal interests and groups (parties).  Only with that, the election process--so far that has been running peacefully and orderly--can contribute more significantly to the state and nation.  Therefore, don’t spoil the election result.”


"Presidential Election, Finally..."


Independent Koran Tempo observed (7/6):  "Indonesia has implanted a new history.  For the first time since independence, the people held a direct presidential election. It was carried out according to the schedule set by the General Election Commission (KPU)....  We must not only be grateful to the government and the KPU, but also to all organizers who have been working sincerely in the field for the success of this event.  As a nation we should be proud, as we have been successful in conducting a democratic presidential election....  We will congratulate anyone who wins or passes to the second round.  Eliminated candidates must receive the loss open heartedly.”


"Power To The People"


The independent English-language Jakarta Post editorialized (7/5):  "Today is a very important day for Indonesia.  For the first time since the country proclaimed its independence in 1945, we Indonesians will have a chance to directly elect our president and vice president.  For the first time, the people, through a democratic election, will be able to choose which of the five pairs of candidates should lead the country for the next five years.  The power to choose our leaders is in our hands, and the time to do this is today....  We reserve the greatest praise, however, for the Indonesian people.  We should rejoice at our achievement in forging ahead with democracy, even though the economic environment or security situation are not all that positive.  Whatever the outcome of today's election, the nation can take pride that it is contributing to making democracy work in this country:  three cheers for democracy.”


AUSTRALIA:  "In Indonesia, Appearances Can Be Deceiving"


Damien Kingsbury maintained in the liberal Melbourne Age (7/8):  "Even though Yudhoyono is touted by international governments as the cleanest, most reformist candidate, this may not quite be the case. In the war-torn province of Aceh, too, Yudhoyono carries a reputation for overseeing the May 2003 declaration of martial law, in which tens of thousands of troops entered the province ahead of widespread killing, torture and destruction....  Regardless of who wins the second round of elections in September, Indonesia's crippling problems will remain. Any future Indonesian president will have to face high and growing unemployment and poverty, a business and investment climate that remains a shambles, active radical Islam and, not least, a cohesive and politically resurgent TNI. Senior TNI officers may have their favorite candidates but, in the final analysis, they know their political strength lies in institutional unity, and it is this that will underpin any new president.”


"Looks Like A Political Revolution"


Foreign editor Greg Sheridan contended in the national conservative Australian (7/7):  “If the early results are confirmed, the presidential poll marks a revolution in the development of the Indonesian political system. That Golkar's candidate, Wiranto, could finish third is a sign of how completely the country has moved on from the Suharto era, when Golkar never lost an election....  The positives of this election are enormous. It was peaceful and the Government lost support because of lack of performance in office. It was also dominated by secular nationalists. The identifiably Islamic candidates appear to have run fourth and fifth in a field of five....  As a democratic exercise it was a vast improvement on the corrupt elections of the Suharto era and the vote-buying and dynastic considerations of more recent times. In all, it is a result emblematic of Indonesia today: much better than our nightmares, somewhat short of our dreams.”


"Democracy At Work In Indonesia"


The national conservative Australian opined (7/7):  "Monday's election in Indonesia is a welcome catastrophe for Islamic fundamentalists who want to see theocratic rule in the world's largest Muslim nation....  On early figures, the frontrunner is former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with 33 per cent of the vote. Mr Yudhoyono is light on declared policies. But is considered a relative clean-skin candidate who will crack down on the corruption which the Attorney-General's office estimates costs Indonesia over US$1 billion a year. He leads the incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri whose 26 per cent is a strong showing, considering she is generally considered to have failed to generate economic growth in her lackluster term....  Whether Mr Yudhoyono confronts Ms Megawati or Mr Wiranto is not yet clear, the final vote is not expected for another week or so. But whichever candidate is elected, all Indonesians have already won in an honest election that has asserted the power of the people.”


"Personal Appeal Trumps Parties"


Harold Crouch observed in the national conservative Australian (7/7):  “If present trends hold, Yudhoyono still looks a likely winner in the second round but he could face a strong challenge from Wiranto or Megawati. The two candidates in the final round will be competing to attract the votes of supporters of the three candidates who didn't make it to the final round and deals will need to be done with their parties.“


"SBY Win Would Strengthen Ties"


The business-oriented Australian Financial Review stated (7/7):  "The world's third-largest democracy continues to impress. Eighty per cent of Indonesia's 150 million voters turned out calmly on Monday to choose a new president--despite the election competing, in this soccer-mad country, with the Euro 2004 final. The indications point to a third of them having backed former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono....  Since the Bali atrocity, the highest priority for Australia's foreign policy has been to work for regional security, starting in Indonesia. The co-operation has been extraordinary, and the links forged by the Australian Federal Police have proved crucial. An SBY-led government would, like the Megawati administration, be an ally against terrorism and a promoter of the inclusive Islam that is integral to Indonesian culture”


"Good News As People Power Rears Its Head"


Greg Barton remarked in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (7/7):  “The prospect of Wiranto, who was previously close to Soeharto and was in charge of the military at the time of the 1999 massacres in East Timor, lining up against Yudhoyono in September has many people deeply worried. Should Wiranto come second, it will be necessary to reflect carefully on what this means for Indonesia's future. For the moment, despite the uncertainty, there is clearly good news coming from the elections. It may not be as spectacular as the Filipino people power that toppled Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 but Indonesia's quiet people power this year may be vastly more effective.”


"Indonesia Votes For A Democracy"


An editorial in the conservative Brisbane Courier Mail read (7/7):  "Monday's presidential election was a great victory for the Indonesian people, who demonstrated conclusively their passion for a democratic system of government. According to early estimates, about 80 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote in the first election for their president since the Indonesian republic was established more than half a century ago. This was a massive demonstration of the desire of the Indonesian people for a system that gives them the ultimate say in who should govern them....  Proportionately, around twice as many Indonesians registered a vote as did Americans in their last presidential election.“


"End Of The Road For Aloof Megawati"


An editorial in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald read (7/6):  "She's [Megawati] held the job for three years, delivered stable government, an improved macro-economic outlook and, for a long time, seemed genuinely to believe a grateful electorate would choose her as still the best person to run the country.  The tears that interrupted the recording of her speech to the nation on Sunday suggest she's only now realized, long after most others, her rule is indeed coming to an end....  Mrs. Megawati has ruled as a member of Indonesia's elite, showing little attempt to seriously address the chronic problems plaguing the country's hundred million poor or those of the growing middle classes.  She's shown little desire to lead and even less capacity to do so.  And Indonesians know it....  Indonesia's democracy is only five years old, but Indonesians have quickly decided the sort of person they want to lead them.  And it's not Mrs. Megawati.”


"Indonesia Votes For A President"


The liberal Melbourne-based Age declared (7/5):  "Australia's largest neighbor goes to the polls today in a historic step towards democracy.  More than half a century after Indonesia became a sovereign state, it is still searching for democratic traditions....  Today, this huge nation of 238 million people will go to the polls for the first time to directly elect a president....  It appears unlikely today's poll will deliver a president to the Indonesian people, with none of the candidates likely to secure 50 per cent of the vote.  Almost certainly, however, the incumbent Megawati Soekarnoputri will not be delivered a fresh term by popular vote.  Her presidency has been bumbling and without direction, rooted more in the nation's past than in its future.  She has barely made an impact on the Indonesia's huge problems: endemic corruption, chronically under-funded education, 100 million people living in poverty, a health care crisis, struggling agricultural and fishing industries, environmental degradation, discrimination against women, labor unrest and a dysfunctional bureaucracy.  Another unlikely contender for the presidency is Wiranto...currently under indictment for crimes against humanity in East Timor.  The front-runner is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, another former general and head of the fledgling Democrat Party....  Yudhoyono has captured the imagination of many Indonesians, with pledges of a return to order and stability, albeit in the absence of much in the way of identifiable policy.  A final outcome is unlikely, short of a run-off ballot in September.  Democracy in Indonesia remains a work in progress.  Yet it is welcome progress, with the work largely being done by the Indonesians themselves.  Whether the democracy they eventually construct will be one that is recognizable and acceptable to the outside world remains to be seen."


CHINA:  "Four Men Battling A Woman:  The First Direct Election"


Tian Lai contended in official popular Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnianbao) (7/6):  “Indonesia’s first direct presidential election concluded smoothly on July 5....  No violent accidents occurred that day....  Susilo, honest, rich and a capable leader, has earned a high rate of support....  Indonesians like powerful leadership.  In 2002 after the Bali terror attack, Susilo, who was at the time minister of politics and security, presented to the public his calmness and operational capability and strategy to the public....  Wiranto was the favored minister of the Suharto era.  For those voters who pine for the Suharto era, Wiranto is the best choice....  Megawati is paying the price for government corruption....  She, who had the highest hopes and expectations, has tended to decline in the polls, which is directly connected to her failure to root out corruption during her term, as she had promised....  The Rais team was estimated to have no chance, similar to the Haz team.  This is because the National Mandate Party to which Rais belongs has performed poorly in Congress....  Haz presents the weakest candidacy of all....  This is the first direct presidential election in Indonesia’s history, and therefore there are no precedents to which to refer.  But there are two things that can provide a reference point for the electoral situation:  first, some observers think that the party elections in April and the presidential election in July are not related.  However, this is incorrect....  Second, public opinion polls don’t fully represent the candidates’ capabilities.”


JAPAN:  "Indonesia:  The Direct Presidential Election Is The Foundation For Stability"


Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri asserted (7/10):  "The first direct presidential election will perhaps become a turning point for the recovery of Indonesia, which dominates Southeast Asia as that region's key country....  In any case, it is by no means certain that the winner of the first round, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), will definitively win the runoff election in September.  Looking ahead towards the runoff, it is certain that the winners of the first round--SBY and President Megawati--will seek to gain the support of the parties affiliated with the three candidates who lost in the first round.  If that election becomes extremely heated, it is possible that corruption and violence will arise.  The reasons for the first-round defeat of Megawati, who is seeking reelection, are economic decline and a leadership deficit.  During the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990's, Indonesia suffered the harshest blow, and Suharto's long-lasting regime fell.  The next two presidents...also resigned or were forced to leave office in the midst of political chaos.  When Megawati took office in 2001...she raised hopes that she would be a standard-bearer of democracy, but she lost the initiative and instead lagged behind in terms of reviving the economy.  In particular, discontent among the people grew in response to her scant results in terms of drawing foreign investment, increasing manufacturing, and boosting employment....  Corruption and growing instability increased the discontent with Megawati....  As for why SBY, with his military background, won the first round, the reason is that he had the image of a strong leader that civilians lacked.  Regarding the problem of intensifying instability in the future, this presidential election is a lodestone for whether Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim population, can solidify the foundation of democratic politics and escape instability.  More stable politics can at the same time contribute greatly to economic revival.  However, if the political and economic chaos intensifies, it is likely that the rapid drive towards regional integration in Southeast Asia will come to a halt.  In addition, other issues will be impacted negatively--from the sea lanes that connect Southeast Asia and the Middle East, to the worsening of stability in the Malacca Straits, to inducing the growth of Islamic radical terror in the region.  It would also be a severe blow to Japan; with Japanese companies owning over 14 percent of all foreign investment in Indonesia, among countries that invest in Indonesia Japan is in first place....  Voters...experienced democracy for the first time, and there was no large-scale chaos.  We strongly hope that the runoff goes smoothly in September as well, and that it can become the first step for a reborn Indonesia."


MALAYSIA:  "A New Chapter For Indonesia"


Bunn Nagara wrote in the government-influenced English-language Sunday Star (7/11):  "After decades of autocratic rule, Indonesia today is the world's third-largest democracy....  In a country of 153 million registered voters, most of whom are unfamiliar with democracy, the election is no mean feat."


"Indonesian Democracy Stands Strong"


Government-influenced, Malay-language Berita Harian noted (7/5):  "More than 155 million Indonesian came to vote for the sixth president of their republic. This presidential election is especially outstanding because this was the first time the public were given the right to choose their president.  Of the five nominees were current President Megawati Sukarnoputri, vice president Hamzah Haz, two former generals Wiranto and Susilo Bambang, and Reformasi champion, Amien Rais.  The victor will bear the burden of ensuring that democracy lives on, after the fall of Suharto in 1998.  There are many shortcomings in the manner democracy is being practiced in the republic, but there is hope with this elections.  We (Malaysians) hope that this presidential elections will be smooth and ensure the continued peace and prosperity for the people of Indonesia."


"Indonesian People Desire Change And Want To Change The President"


Chinese-language government-influenced Nanyang Siang Pau held (7/5):  "Indonesia held direct presidential elections for the first time yesterday, which was the first time that people had experienced the significance of full democracy after going through several decades of autocratic rule.  One can only say that such a huge country becoming the world's third greatest democratic country in the short transition period of only six years is an achievement, and some Asian countries which still practice autocratic politics could learn from Indonesia's transition towards democracy."


"Indonesian Democracy Takes A Step Forward"


Y.K. Choo wrote in government-influenced Chinese-language Petaling Jaya-based Sin Chew Jit Poh (7/5):  "Since this is the first time that Indonesia has smoothly held direct presidential elections since the nation was founded, the biggest winner will be the people no matter who comes to the fore, because they could finally use the votes in their hands to elect their ideal president.  What's especially significant is that as a country with the most Muslims in the world, Indonesia went through democratic means to elect a president as planned, which will be a great help regardless of whether it is for the prosperity and stability of this region or world peace, and it will also be a big step in Indonesia's process of heading towards democracy.  The smooth and successful holding of Indonesian parliamentary and presidential elections has restored Indonesia's status internationally, and laid down an important foundation."


"Bear In Mind Some Pointers On SBY"


Karim Raslan observed in the government-influenced, English-language Star (7/4):  "Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono...began the campaign period topping all the polls and that position has never altered, though the extent of his lead has lessened over the weeks....  After over three years of President Megawati’s haphazard and lackluster leadership, the voters were desperately waiting for someone to capture their enthusiasm and imagination....  However, it would be wrong to see SBY as a new force in Indonesian public life.  While the man is a relatively new player, he and his Democrat Party represent long-standing social and intellectual forces--in particular the more secular, less overtly Islamic section of the political spectrum....  Overall, SBY is the right man for Indonesia and the region.  Tough, pro-active and sufficiently international, he will hopefully be able to shake the republic from its seven-year 'funk'".


SINGAPORE:  "Indonesia's Coming Of Age" 


The pro-government Business Times editorialized (7/8):  "Indonesia's direct presidential election shows the country's steady progress in its political transition from authoritarian rule to liberal democracy....  The smooth running of the poll and the sophistication of voters can be putdown to the role of both the media and non-governmental organizations....  But the electoral process alone does not mean Indonesia has arrived as a fully functioning democracy; far from it. Its other democratic institutions, principally an independent judiciary, still need to be built up. As well, the presidential run-off in September will be a sterner test of the country's democratic credentials. With Ms Megawati and Gen Wiranto running in a dead heat, the fear is that supporters of the defeated side may not accept the result graciously and may take their dissatisfaction to the streets."


"Big Agenda For Winner" 


The pro-government Straits Times opined (7/6):  "Indonesia has had such ungenerous epithets pinned to it, it is easy to overlook how well the smooth staging of its first direct presidential election yesterday speaks of the country's progression....  But those who are nostalgic for the Suharto days of calm and steady progress should acknowledge that the political temper of the times--and the Indonesian people's expectations--have rendered Suharto-style paternalism obsolete.  Indonesians have taken their lumps, new civic disruptions like terror attacks included, and can be proud that it is a functional democracy, although still a work in progress.  For all the country's deficiencies, this has been an achievement.  All this is saying that whomever becomes president next has to have broad shoulders to carry the burden of taking Indonesia onto its next stage of evolution.  While democratic instincts and practices have to be tended to, political freedom would have less and less meaning for the people if parallel social progress is making little headway....  There are four big jobs to concentrate on--bring the jobs; be serious about fighting corruption; do a better job of neutralizing separatist tendencies such as in Aceh and West Papua; and take a non-ideological view of checking Islamic-centered terrorism.  Each of these tasks is Herculean in a nation so diverse and unevenly developed.  The overriding message from the masses is that they are impatient for improvements in their lives.  This is a sobering reminder:  for incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri, that she has to put pace and direction in her job if re-elected; and for the front runner, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that his military past can be both an aid and an impediment....  But the polls, all taken in urban centers, bear little relation to what the majority of the 153 million voters in rural areas think.  An 11-week wait before the run-off ballot in September is reckoned to have its dangers, such as street disturbances and sabotage of state machinery, depending on who remain in the race.  This is notionally another test, but there is confidence Indonesians are better prepared."


THAILAND:  "Assigning Megawati To History?"


The top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post asserted (7/6):  "Megawati Sukarnoputri has frustrated many of her supporters by not providing her nation's people with more active leadership.  As a result, she is not expected to survive after Indonesians went to the polls yesterday to elect a president for the first time."




GERMANY:  "Indonesia's Test"


Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich opined (7/7):  "We can be optimistic about Indonesia's future: the elections were peaceful, which is not normal in a country with 200 million inhabitants of very diverse ethnic origins and religions.  And the turnout was very high.  It shows people desperately longing for political participation after decades of dictatorship.  This is the best news from Indonesia in a long time.  India showed how a democracy could work despite huge contradictions.  Jakarta should look towards Delhi to take heart for the future."


"Seeming Maturity"


Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (7/7):  "Indonesia's young democracy seems to be incredibly mature.  Military dictator Suharto was ousted only six years ago.  Now, Indonesians achieved peaceful election campaigns, disciplined voting and calm crisis management after a small problem with voting slips.   A glance at neighboring Philippines, where the dictator Marcos was toppled 18 years ago, shows how remarkable this is.   The country calls itself democratic, but cowboy methods are normal.  This year, more than 100 people died during the campaign and on Election Day.   There were only three serious incidents in Indonesia.  Those who lose elections in Indonesia always want to destabilize the country, but in Indonesia there were unrests only in the first three years--stability was quickly created. This is impressive, though both countries are still a long way away from the rule of law."


RUSSIA:  "Generals To Carry The Ball"


Valentina Kulyabina said in reformist Vremya Novostey (7/7):  "After working in two unpopular Democratic governments and resigning from both, Yudhoyono is seen as one who has fallen victim to the Democrats, which, combined with his military past, has earned him unheard-of popularity.   Half the voters in the 220-million strong Indonesia are under 27 years of age, and all hope for a better life.   The Democrats' position rocked badly after the President Wahid impeachment in 2001.   President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party, has clearly been struggling, barely able to survive politically.  Indonesia is not going to abandon the democratic course, with the generals, not the Democrats, likely to carry the ball now."




UAE:  "Indonesians Are The Winners"


The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf News concluded (7/7):  "The last thing Indonesia needs is for its experiment with democracy to stall as a former general and an ousted president's daughter square off for a second round of polling over two months from now.  Former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who once served with the lacklustre incumbent government led by President Megawati Sukarnoputri is confident of victory. But he fell short of the majority needed to win the first round, making a second run off on September 20 inevitable.  In the ten-week run up to the next round, Indonesians must ensure that the smooth conduct of the elections so far, is not marred by the often violent rivalry between political, ethnic and religious groups jockeying for power.  More so, as voting patterns could change in the coming days as more ballots are counted in the outlying areas. By Monday night only a quarter of all the votes cast had been counted, and these, mostly from urban areas where Yudhoyono has steadily eaten into Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party -Struggle (PDI-P).  But the absence of a clear winner raises the prospect of political uncertainty in the interim. Megawati's ambitious husband, the powerful Taufik Kiemas is the man to watch as is Yudhoyono, who has said he will not accept a run-off second round.  Voters are justifiably proud that they can elect their president directly, becoming in the process, like neighbouring Malaysia, one of the few Islamic nations in Asia to practise democracy.  Since 2002 though, the country has seen three presidents, uniformly unable to tackle the problems of unemployment and poverty.  The strong impulse for change underlines why so many people who voted for Megawati's party in 1999 have been less than supportive this time.  Whatever the final result in September and given the fragility of this particular democratic experiment, the biggest triumph is that the Indonesian people are exercising their franchise at all."




BRAZIL:  "Two Cases"


Center-right O Globo opined (7/11):  "What is the best way to make Democracy work in a hostile atmosphere?  Through an abrupt transplantation or a spontaneous cultivation? Let’s look at the examples of Indonesia and Iraq.  Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, was a kind of fiefdom of general Suharto for over 30 years....  Earlier this month and for the first time in history, the Indonesians went to the polls to elect their President.  There is still a long way to go, of course.  The President-elect will have to face the challenge of preserving the national unity threatened by separatist movements.  But we wish that Iraq--where President Bush intends to establish a model (of Democracy) for the Middle East, by force and possibly before the November elections--was on the same stage of political opening and institutional strengthening. What one sees there is a demonstration of the evildoings and risks of interventionism.  Iraqis see the provisional an American imposition. In the two countries, the seed of democracy is far from growing roots--but apparently it is beginning to grow in Indonesia.”



Commentary from ...
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere

This site is produced and maintained by the U.S. Department of State. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Back To Top

blue rule
IIP Home  |  Issue Focus Home