September 27, 2004
INDONESIA ELECTION: A 'SHOWCASE' FOR 'REMARKABLE
Indonesian papers are "proud" of the "peaceful and
election proves that "democracy and Islam fit together."
President-elect Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's must end "corrupt crony
Skeptics express concern about Susilo's "weak" political
Susilo's 'massive' victory was a 'great
achievement for Indonesia'-- The "peaceful and
well-managed presidential election" received praise from Indonesian
writers. Leading Kompas
emphasized that Indonesians "have shown the world we were able to hold a
fair, peaceful, safe and smooth" election; independent Jawa Pos
agreed that "we should be proud."
Foreign outlets welcomed both the "giant step forward" in
Indonesia's "move towards democracy" and President-elect Susilo's
"massive popular endorsement."
Australian dailies called Susilo a "friend of the West" and a
"committed democrat," while Canada's nationalist Ottawa Citizen
described him as "clean, competent and energized."
Muslim nations can 'accommodate
democracy'-- Several dailies said the
election sent a "message to the Islamic world" that "peaceful
change is possible." The poll proved
Muslims can "be good citizens of the world and yet remain faithful to
Islam," observed Thailand's independent Nation, while Germany's
center-left Die Zeit agreed that Susilo's victory will show "other
Islamic countries...that democracy is feasible." The "open rejection of Islamic
militants" who opposed the vote demonstrates that "Muslims, like any
other people, opt for democracy."
Seoul's independent Korea Herald concluded that Indonesians
"are inspiring great hope" by showing that "democratic rule is
the best deterrent against the evil forces" of extremism.
'Rife with corruption and red tape'-- Susilo's priority is to "bring about
stability," papers asserted, and he "must tackle" issues such as
regional violence, extremism, unemployment and rising prices. However, most observers rated "rampant
corruption" as his main challenge.
Tokyo's moderate Yomiuri demanded "eradication of official
corruption." The liberal Sydney
Morning Herald hoped Susilo could "break entrenched patterns"
whereby "the political elite and bureaucracy...use public office for
personal enrichment." Dailies
opined that a "more efficient and accountable government" would boost
foreign investment. Conservative papers
stressed the need to "fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism."
The 'path to democracy is still long'-- Cautious commentators warned that Susilo
"will face many hurdles" navigating the "treacherous waters of
Indonesian politics." They
predicted that "entrenched interests" will fight efforts to implement
the "necessary tough reforms" and noted that Susilo's "political
base is weak" because his Democratic Party only has 10% of parliament
seats. His success depends on whether
the three opposition parties controlling parliament will cooperate, judged
pro-PRC Macau Daily News. A few
writers saw the vote for Susilo as support for an "iron fist to deliver
the country from corruption and terrorism."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202)
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
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. Some commentary is taken directly from the
Internet. 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 40 reports from 12 countries over 18 - 27 September 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most
INDONESIA: "A New Dawn
The independent English-language Jakarta Post
argued (9/23): "Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono...is closeting himself inside his home, quietly consulting with
politicians and drafting a Cabinet whose makeup he is expected to disclose
immediately after his installation....
Nobody has any illusions about the formidable task that lies ahead of
the man who is shortly to become country's sixth president.... Poverty can be seen everywhere one goes,
corruption and injustice continue to pervade almost every walk of life and
disillusionment with the reform movement...is a palpable reality.... Obviously, there is no time to be lost if the
incoming administration of Susilo is to avoid making the same mistakes his
predecessor made.... The statements that
he made during his campaign debates and interviews seem to reveal a
broad-minded rationality and an all-inclusive predilection that fit the needs
of this troubled nation. His good understanding of economic issues will serve
the nation equally well.... Time also
will reveal the leeway that Susilo has in steering his ship of governance
through the sometimes treacherous waters of Indonesian politics.... The election victory of Susilo...marks the
beginning of a new period in their country's history, led by a former Army
general who is admittedly known for his democratic ideas.... Ergo, it is important that Indonesians keep
in mind that the only genuine guarantee for a better and more democratic
future, one in which justice and prosperity for all prevail, lies in our
continued efforts to build a strong and healthy civil society.... A better future does indeed lie ahead of the
Indonesian nation, provided that we never stop working toward that goal."
"This Momentum Should Not Fail Again"
Leading independent Kompas commented
(9/22): "We now have before our
eyes momentum for reawakening. We have
shown the world we were to hold a fair, peaceful, safe and smooth democratic
election. Many countries have praised
Indonesia for its progress in democratic reform. The European Union, and the latest being the
U.S., admitted it as the IHT quoted Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
as saying. With such an asset, the new government
should be able to invite major countries for renegotiation of the state’s
debts, foreign loans in particular. With
total debts of $130 billion, it would be hard for anybody to manage this
"Victory Of The Whole People"
Independent Koran Tempo observed
(9/22): "As a politician Megawati
has probably miscalculated. Inviting Golkar, which is the symbol of the New
Order, and then PPP, whose leader is inconsistent, could have been a wrong
move. People were already fed up with
the New Order-style election, which was full of intrigue and slander and forced
its will as if the people should always follow party leaders. Megawati had to pay for all this with her
failure to become a president directly elected by the people.”
"Why Megawati Lost"
The independent, English-language Jakarta
Post concluded (9/22): "As the
vote count rolls on it has become clear that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his
running mate Jusuf Kalla are going to win in a landslide.... The results are showing a stunning defeat for
the incumbent President, Megawati Soekarnoputri.... Now the question becomes, why did Megawati
lose.... At this early stage we would
like to make a few preliminary remarks that perhaps could help reveal the
drastic socio-political changes that have been taking place in Indonesian
society.... The majority of the
Indonesian electorate were on Monday expressing their ethical rejection of a
culture of permissiveness that the Megawati leadership (with the assistance of
her husband, Taufik Kiemas) has been spreading.... Corruption by political leaders and
government officials, perfected during the later years of President Soeharto's
tenure and practiced almost blatantly during President Megawati's
administration, has indeed been a constant problem in Indonesia.... The Indonesian public was forced to conclude
that enough was enough. Another
significant factor in Megawati's defeat was probably the limited intellectual
weight of her leadership and the poor quality of her government's policy
decisions.... Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
displayed an impressive intellectual aptitude by presenting coherent statements
on a wide range of issues. The
preliminary results of the Sept. 20 presidential election clearly reflected the
strong yearning for change that exists among Indonesians, as well as the prevailing
opinion that this nation deserves leadership, which adheres to moral
principles, imbued with a more respectable intellectual quality.... Drastic and significant changes have taken
place, affecting the social psychology of Indonesian society, with far-reaching
"Welcome President Of People’s Choice"
Independent Suara Pembaruan opined
(9/21): "Both the winner and the
loser must see the election as the beginning of a struggle, instead of a final
result. The president and vice president
must show performance that reflects sidedness with the people. They must form a cabinet that reflects the
people’s expectations, i.e. a government that is clean, accountable and will
improve the life of a people hit by a crisis.”
"Mega And History"
Independent Media Indonesia declared
(9/21): "Megawati’s [likely] defeat
should be put in historical perspective.
The direct presidential election that represented a landmark activity in
Indonesia’s democratic history should be recorded as Megawati’s golden
work. She took the initiative with full
awareness that she should might lose during the election. But she made the choice.... To SBY who will [likely] replace Megawati, we
wish that he will treat her as a statesperson who has rendered a great service
to the emergence of democracy and people’s sovereignty in this country. She must not be badly treated for any reason
"Do Not Waste The People’s Trust"
Muslim-intellectual Republika held
(9/21): "Thanks God, the final
presidential election ran safely and smoothly.
It was a great success by the Indonesian people and should be a model
for the international world. Indonesia,
which has been positioned as a country that is not safe and susceptible to
conflicts, was able to run an election without violence.... The success was no other than the result of
the high level of awareness and wishes of the people for their common
future.... We believe that the people’s
expectations would materialize if all parties, the winner and loser, shared a
commitment and determination for the glory and dignity of the nation. We believe that the political elite would put
the people’s interest above their group’s political interests.”
"Welcoming The Leader Of People’s
Nationalistic, pro-government Harian Merdeka
remarked (9/21): "Whoever will be
elected and gain the people’s trust to become president and vice president
during the 2004 elections, the Head of State
[Megawati] said, will become the legitimate leader and thus he/she must
be accepted and supported sincerely.
Therefore, the call by the Head of State that community, religious, and
political leaders should take an active role in providing understanding for the
people that choosing a leader should not be followed by violence represented a
learned and wise attitude.”
"Passing The Test"
Surabaya-based independent Jawa Pos held
(9/21): "We should be
proud.... The peaceful and well-managed
presidential election shows that this nation has passed the test with flying
colours.... Indonesia...has become one
of the nations that can practise democracy correctly and fairly."
"Yudhoyono's Tasks Extend Beyond Indonesia"
Greg Sheridan noted in the national conservative
Australian (9/23): "This
week's election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as president of Indonesia is a
giant step forward for Indonesia and very good for Australia. Most Indonesians
now want Yudhoyono to improve their economic lot and restore normality to life
and society. But it will be impossible to restore the economy, which
necessitates attracting more foreign investment, unless Yudhoyono can get on
top of the terrorist challenge. More
than any other Indonesian, Yudhoyono is the man to do this. He has spoken out more
forcefully against terrorism and its supporters in Indonesia than any other
national leader.... But the Islamist
terrorist outfit Jemaah Islamiah is extremely tenacious and difficult to
defeat.... JI is an Indonesian
organisation but it has developed a network across Southeast Asia that gives it
great tenacity and regenerative power....
Because of widespread paranoia within Indonesia about the West's war on
terror, and because there is still great denial in Indonesian political culture
about Islamist extremism, the Indonesian Government has not been able to ban JI
outright.... However, it is the JI
training camps in the southern Philippines that have emerged as
crucial.... JI also has links with the
newly bloodthirsty insurgency in southern Thailand.... In northern Malaysia the atmosphere is one of
very conservative Islam, such that activists from southern Thailand can move
back and forth freely and JI leaders have travelled there.... There has not been an effective regional
response to the terrorist threat in part because the regional players don't
trust each other.... But most of the
other problems, such as formally banning JI and shutting the JI-linked
pesantren, could be tackled by a strong and confident Indonesian
government. We're all waiting, Mr
"A Change Of Direction In Indonesia"
The liberal Melbourne-based Age concluded (9/22): "The election of Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono as Indonesia's sixth president will soon be confirmed. A clear
majority of Indonesians have chosen the former Soeharto-era general over the
incumbent Megawati Soekarnoputri.... Mr
Yudhoyono's election is doubly significant. He is the first popularly elected
president in the world's most populous Muslim nation since independence.... The electoral process...was generally
peaceful and without incident.... Yet
given the context of Indonesia's overall transition to democracy, which has
featured appalling ethnic, sectarian and military violence in Ambon, Aceh and
other areas...the transition to a democratically elected parliament and
presidency has been little short of miraculous.
Indonesia remains a complex nation fraught with problems. Foremost among these is not Islamic extremism
or even terrorism...is the fact that 40 per cent of the workforce is either
unemployed or under-employed. Poverty
and public concern over jobs and prices...remain fundamental challenges for the
incoming government. Mr Yudhoyono...has already signalled a tougher stance on
terrorism.... What he does bring to the
job is a more engaging personality than Mrs Megawati, whose presidency was
marked by a bland and aloof style.... As
Indonesia's former chief security minister, Mr Yudhoyono is well aware of the
delicate internal dimensions of taking a hard line against militant Islam.
Revitalising the economy and rooting out corruption must seem like child's play
"Democracy Blooms In Indonesia"
The national business-oriented Australian
Financial Review stated (9/22):
"A leader who can say 'we shall ensure that the noble values the
terrorists hope to destroy will always remain dear to our hearts' is a leader
Australia should be able to do business with. Reassuringly, these words came
from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.... SBY
won on a platform of reform. His task is huge.... Indonesia lags its regional neighbors in
attracting foreign investment. Corruption keeps many global firms at bay. SBY
has promised to fight it; but that's another huge job, tackling everything from
bribery by petty officials to the overly close relationship between the
military, the judiciary and the government. It's hard to imagine one person
being able to lead the initiative on so many fronts, even if he had the
unanimous support of his cabinet. But there are auspicious signals. SBY won by
a convincing 20 per cent margin. And the election itself was peaceful.... The public's embrace of the democratic
process and SBY's rejection of terrorism are welcome news for Indonesia, and
for its neighbors.”
"Indonesian Hopes Fly High With SBY"
An editorial in the national conservative Australian
read (9/22): "The landslide
election as president of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is another example of how
quickly the country has adapted to democracy. Like the April parliamentary
poll, and the first round of presidential voting, where no candidate won an
absolute majority in July, this election was free and fair. This is a great
achievement for Indonesia. After a generation of corrupt crony capitalism,
where the support of the military mattered far more than popular opinion,
President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her advisers will now pack up and leave at
the pleasure of the people. Mr Yudhoyono, widely known as SBY, looks like
winning 60 per cent of the vote, giving him a massive mandate.... Mr Yudhoyono is far from a people's champion
untouched by the past failings of Indonesia's elite.... Some commentators fear a well-connected
soldier serving as president is a little too like the old Suharto style. And
there are complaints that Mr Yudhoyono's campaign was l
ight on policy detail. Perhaps. But there is no
doubting the direction he will try to take....
Mr Yudhoyono is a friend of the West, an enemy of terrorism, and in the
manner of his coming to power, a committed democrat.”
Tim Dodd observed in the national
business-oriented Australian Financial Review (9/22): “For Australia and other Western governments,
the massive popular endorsement for Indonesia's president-elect, Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono, is the best outcome which could have been hoped for. When he is
inaugurated on October 20, the world's most populous Muslim country will have a
new leader who is anti-fundamentalist, with a proven record in the war on
terrorism. And unlike incumbent president Megawati Soekarnoputri, whom Yudhoyono
defeated by a 60-40 margin in Monday's election, he is likely to be able to
build a personal rapport with Western leaders.... Yudhoyono speaks fluent English and holds a
US masters degree. He is familiar with the West and, during his army career,
took specialist military courses in the US and Europe.”
"Breaking With Indonesia's Past"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald
maintained (9/22): "The clear
victory of a former general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Indonesia's
presidential election is good for Australia....
Better communication could go a long way to improving management of
future tensions. Whether Mr Yudhoyono
will be good for Indonesia is a more important question. Canberra is
understandably keen to push security co-operation with Jakarta because of the
clear threat posed by the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network.
The concerns of ordinary Indonesians--poverty, health, education--are far more
basic but not necessarily unconnected with terrorism's roots. Instability and
extremism are fanned by under-employment....
This is especially so while the political elite and bureaucracy continue
to use public office for personal enrichment.
Nothing is more urgent than Mr Yudhoyono's promise to turn the economy
around. Growth of at least 7 per cent is needed just to absorb the millions of
school leavers who spill on to the labour market each year. Indonesia cannot
break the poverty cycle without substantial new foreign investment, but foreign
investors want security guarantees. This year's successful democratic elections
and Monday's strong electoral mandate for Mr Yudhoyono are positive
starts.... Mr Yudhoyono must now
demonstrate his resolve to break entrenched patterns of political behaviour.
That means reviving Indonesia's stalled reform movement, which began with such
promise and hope when Soeharto, the authoritarian president, was toppled six
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "Susilo Has To Face Challenges"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked
(9/26): "Susilo will win a
landslide victory and become the fifth president since Indonesia's
independence. Voters hope that Susilo
will bring Indonesia out of the doldrums.
Susilo's Democrat Party, however, is merely an emerging political party,
obtaining only 10% of the seats in the Congress. Thus, big questions remain as to whether
Susilo can exercise his administration effectively; and whether the three
opposition parties controlling parliament will cooperate with him.... The immediate crisis for Susilo is the position
of the largest political party, the Indonesia Democratic Party, which said that
if Susilo won, they would not accept any cabinet position. Rather, they will become the opposition power
in Congress to supervise the government.
If Susilo's cabinet lacks the support of the largest party, the new
government will face many hurdles in the future when implementing new
policies. Unless Susilo can quickly
convince other political parties to cooperate with him, it will be difficult
for the new government to work smoothly."
"Corruption The Crucial Challenge For
The independent English-language South China Morning Post
said (9/22): "Even if Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono - the apparent winner in Indonesia's presidential race -
accomplishes little else on his reform agenda, any progress towards curbing the
country's rampant corruption would be welcome.... Mr. Susilo's campaign promises in other
areas, including the economy and terrorism, might have been vague, but in the
area of corruption his advisers are already naming names and drawing up lists
of corporations that will face investigation.
He has also promised to pursue former bankers who have paid back only a
small amount of the emergency loans they misused during the financial
crisis.... The overwhelming vote in
favor of Mr. Susilo is a vote for change, but quite what kind of president he
will be remains to be seen. As a career
military man who served with distinction during the Suharto era, Mr. Susilo has
managed to avoid being tainted by the same human rights and graft charges that
dog many others from the army's inner circle.
He has pledged to uphold civilian rule and has raised hopes he will end
the Indonesian military's behind-the-scenes involvement in politics once and
for all. However, his talk of giving the
army a bigger role in chasing terrorists and bringing in laws allowing
detention without trial are sure to spark worries about a return to the bad old
days. There are vital differences
between now and the recent past, however.
For one thing, the high turnouts in all three of the country's elections
this year indicate how deeply democracy is taking root in post-Suharto
Indonesia. The public is unlikely to
tolerate a return to strongman politics, while there is nothing to indicate
that Mr. Susilo might use the army to hold on to power once his mandate is
"Indonesia: Hopes For
Liberal Asahi declared (9/27): "Large-scale terror attacks have hit
Jakarta throughout the last two years.
Concerns are high over this continuing outbreak of terror, and
investment from foreign countries has dropped.
There is a need to enact strong
anti-terror policies to not only fight against being wrapped up in the
international terrorist network, but also to rebuild the economy.... Indonesia has many potential strengths. It has fertile farmland and productive seas,
oil and natural gas, and is blessed with many metal natural resources. If it can move forward towards a more equal
society and political stability, it is undoubtedly probable that these
potential strengths can be shared to create a richer society and a better daily
life for every Indonesian. Although this
will take time, stabilizing the internal situation of Indonesia, a great Islamic
country, should be greatly welcomed by neighboring countries and the entire
world. The hope is that Yudhoyono can
achieve that goal. The forecast is that
Yudhoyono's political party will not gain a majority in the parliament. Thus, a difficult situation will continue for
his leadership from the start of his administration. That being the case, even as a new flow of
politics continues to grow, we hope that the roots of Indonesian democracy can
be firmly planted."
The Relevance Of The Democratic Transfer Of Power"
Liberal Mainichi editorialized
(9/26): "As a developing nation
that embraces a population of over 200 million that lived for a long period
under authoritarian rule, Indonesia is seeking to change administrations
peacefully, without chaos, through a direct democratic system. It deserves special mention.... The transfer of power to Yudhoyono should
give hope and courage to other developing nations in which the process of
democratization continues to see agonizing difficulties, such as Afghanistan
and Iraq.... An issue for the Yudhoyono
administration will be a parliament in which his party is a minority. If he makes a compromise with the
conservative groups, in order to stress political stability, his administration
will just end up being a second act of the Megawati presidency. And, if the power of military officials'
political comments becomes stronger in light of a president who is from a
military background, democratization will receed. For Indonesia, advancing democratization is
the best path to political stability."
"A New Broom In Jakarta"
The liberal English-language Japan Times
opined (9/23): "Mr. Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono is set to become Indonesia's next president.... His victory could usher in a new era in
Indonesian politics.... Yudhoyono's
priorities are clear: battling terrorism, fighting corruption and putting the
economy on a solid and stable track. Unfortunately, his party holds just 10
percent of the seats in the legislature, and entrenched interests will fight
his efforts toward serious reform....
Other governments view him as a capable and resolute leader, a ready
partner in the fight against terrorism. To Indonesians, he is a can-do figure,
with a record of success.... Combating
the terrorist scourge will be one of the new president's top
priorities.... Counterterrorism efforts
have been hampered by Jakarta's unwillingness to acknowledge the severity of
the threat, primarily out of concern for the domestic political impact of an
all-out assault on Islamic extremism....
Mr. Yudhoyono has vowed to crack down on the terrorists, a move that is
long overdue and is critical to regional efforts to fight terrorism. An equally important job is fighting graft in
one of the world's most corrupt countries.
Megawati was seen as unable or unwilling to clean up the
economy.... Foreign investment, critical
to the country's future, has been deterred by concerns about corruption and
fears of terrorism.... Fighting terrorism
and stabilizing the economy are related tasks. The economy will never regain
its footing as long as the threat of terrorism exists.... Attempts to end the vicious cycle will be
impeded by legislative realities....
Attempts to reform the economy will attack interests represented by what
is now the opposition: They can be counted on to vigorously fight
reform.... Indonesia needs a broad-based
consensus to move forward. But Mr. Yudhoyono must make sure that he does not
make too many compromises in the process. He must remain committed to real
"The New Yudhoyono System: Exterminating Terrorism Is The Key To
Conservative Sankei declared (9/23): "Indonesia...has achieved a level of
stability and made clear that it has exited from the 'post-Suharto era' with
this election. Against a background of strong
popular support, President Megawati appeared as a symbol of
democratization. But, in just three
years in office, she failed to advance Indonesia's economy, which was in a
critical stage of crisis. She was also
unable to show determination to stop the string of terrorist blasts that
occurred one after another, and it became clear that former Coordinating
Security Minister Yudhoyono was far more trusted in this respect. In addition, there was a sense of hopelessness
that the political corruption had just switched from the pro-Suharto factions
to the anti-Suharto factions....
Yudhoyono is of a military background, but more than a true military man
he advanced as a a military bureaucrat....
He showed he has a keen political sense, and he displayed it in the
election campaign by calling for expanded employment and promotion of foreign
investment, which the masses hope for. The problem is that his political base
is weak. He has poor relations with the
Suharto-linked Golkar party, and thus he must create an understanding with
Megawati's PDI-P party. However, if he
does achieve a compromise with them, he will have to make deals with powers
that seek to protect vested interests....
What is hoped for in the new administration is a true fight against
terrorism and Islamic extremism. Unless
he can contain terror, Japanese and foreign firms will find it difficult to
invest in Indonesia. Yudhoyono should
thus be fully aware that the fight against terror is strongly linked to
economic development. Indonesia is the
major country in the Southeast Asia region, and whether it can thrive will have
major influence on the region. Now is
the time for the new administation and legislature to work together and
cooperate to rebuild the country. For
Japan too, as it is the biggest provider of ODA to Indonesia. Along with economic aid to help Indonesia
embark on a growth path, humanitarian cooperation should not be lacking."
"New Government Must Stabilize
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri opined
(9/22): "The victory of former
Security Minister Yudhoyono in the first direct presidential election will help
promote democracy in Indonesia, which has encountered difficulty in the
democratic process following the collapse of the Suharto government in 1998. We welcome Indonesia's efforts. Yudhoyono must tackle economic issues and the
eradication of official corruption. He
also needs to develop specific plans for the expansion of investment and
employment opportunities. Restoring
public security is another challenge facing the new government. We expect the Yudhoyono-led administration to
bring about stability in the nation."
"Election Demonstrates Progress Toward Democracy"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (9/22): "We welcome the result of the presidential
election as a demonstration of considerable progress in Indonesia's move
towards democracy. Yudhoyono's victory
is likely to have a favorable impact on other developing nations seeking
democratic change. We hope that the new
administration will work with the congress in promoting economic recovery and
implementing anti-terrorism measures.
Indonesia's neighbors also hope for economic stability and public safety
in the nation."
"Election Opens New Era Of Democracy"
Liberal Tokyo Shimbun contended (9/22): "We welcome Yudhoyono's victory as a
symbol of the remarkable progress of democracy in Indonesia. The success of Indonesia's democratic process
will set a good example for neighboring nations interested in democracy. Japan needs to continue to support
Indonesia's efforts because the promotion of democracy is not an easy task for
Leader, New Hopes"
The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (9/22): "Indonesia's transition from a
feudal-military entity has taken its biggest leap so far with the peaceful
electoral transfer of power to a new President.... Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general
and security minister in two administrations.... The nation's achievement is more remarkable
in that the leadership change in Monday's presidential run-off was decided by
popular will. It was untainted by voting fraud or intimidation.... Indonesia is beginning to show what it is capable
of. This is important. The expression of democracy is a watershed event. But
the Indonesian people and their South-east Asian neighbours would want to see
what the change in governing philosophy will mean in practical terms--jobs,
social calm, more dependable courts and law enforcement, and protection against
organised terror and sectarian violence. There is also the matter of
territorial unity against separatist tendencies. The departing President deserves her people's
appreciation for getting some things right....
The rupiah steadied on her watch....
But Susilo can expect to be judged by the jobs and investment he can
deliver...and a more efficient and accountable government.... Mr Susilo's biggest immediate challenge is to
make parliament a partner in his crucial reform programme. His Democratic Party
is a tiny presence, with 8 per cent of the seats. He will need to get the
dominant Golkar and Ms Megawati's PDI-P to work with him.... This will test his leadership skills: how to
make collaborators of political rivals. Internationally, he can count on the
active support of his principal neighbours Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia in
investing in portfolio, manufacturing and tourism assets. The same level of
cooperation can be expected of them in the anti-terror campaign, but joined by
the U.S. and Australia. The new President should make use of his mandate to
stabilise Indonesia further as a polity, such that conditions improve
sufficiently for other Asian and Western governments and corporations to want
to invest in its future."
"Democracy In Indonesia"
The independent English-language Korea Herald
editorialized (9/22): "Indonesians
are about to beat another myth that democracy cannot prosper in the Muslim
world.... They have finally stepped into
democratic rule by holding their first direct presidential election in history
without serious troubles.... Yudhoyono,
who resigned as the senior minister for security in March to run for the
presidential election, was credited for tough measures to crack down on
terrorist agents. His military background gave him an advantage as many
Indonesians are looking for a strong leader who can push political and economic
reforms and protect them from terror threats.... Megawati...has done much to stabilize the
economy and government of the world's largest Muslim nation. But her popularity
has declined among the lower class...as she is seen to have sided with the
military, political and business elites....
The election was thus a contest of personality and image rather than of
policies. Still, it was considered as the final stage in a peaceful transition
to democracy.... Indonesia's move into
the community of democracies will dramatically change the political map of the
globe, which has continuously broadened the domain of liberal democracy since
the 1980s.... As the world is poised to
fight the worst form of terrorism in human history originating unfortunately
from authoritarian Muslim society, it is commonly recognized that free
democratic rule is the best deterrent against the evil forces.... Indonesians are inspiring great hope in all
peace-loving people of the world."
Win Good For Democracy"
The independent, English-language Nation asserted
(9/22): “The expected landslide victory
of former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Indonesia is significant for two
reasons: first, it shows that despite myriad problems afflicting the world’s
most populous Muslim country, democracy is working well. Second, the new leader may well put Indonesia
back on track as a key player within ASEAN.
Democracy in Indonesia since the downfall of President Suharto has been
erratic, facing numerous stumbling blocks....
His rise to power also augurs well for the trend that is already evident
in Malaysia, another moderate Muslim nation, which is blazing new ground under
a kinder, gentler leadership and policies that are more responsive to people’s
needs and aspirations, all the while maintaining a hard-line approach against
terrorism. If Yudhoyono does it right
and achieves a similarly delicate balance with his own leadership style,
Indonesia will be on its way to becoming a showcase for the world of how the
Muslim countries of Southeast Asia are able to accommodate democracy, raise
their people’s standard of living, compete successfully in a borderless world,
be good citizens of the world and yet remain faithful to Islam.... During his campaign, Yudhoyono showed a good
grasp of the situation and pledged to step up measures to combat
terrorism. Tough actions from Indonesia
against terrorism are indispensable if any sort of region-wide cooperative
effort to fight Islamic militants is to succeed.”
'Lens Zoom' (pseudonym) commented in mass-appeal Thai-language Daily
News (9/18): “No matter who becomes
the new president, it will probably be impossible for him or her to solve all
the problems quickly. This country is
still rife with corruption and red tape and has an unpredictable legal
system. Moreover, no political party
commands a majority in parliament.... To
make matters worse, violence has not disappeared from this land.... Most recently on September 9, the religious
extremist group, JI, attacked the Australian Embassy in the heart of
Jakarta. President Megawati had to
immediately fly from Brunei to look at the site...but she did not come up with
any concrete measures to address the problem.... This is enough for us to predict who is going
Arnfried Schenk opined in center-left weekly Die Zeit of
Hamburg (9/23): "Islam and
democracy do not fit, this was the impression that strengthened over the past
few years. But it fits and it was
Indonesia of all countries, since most of the Muslims in the world live in this
country. A smooth transition is evolving
in the first direct presidential elections: a relaxed election campaign, no
unrest, hardly any incidents.... The
voters want a strong but also democratic leadership that will create an
economic upswing. If Yudhoyono succeeds,
other Islamic countries could see that democracy is feasible at home,
"The Irony Of Democracy"
Sven Hansen noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin
(9/23): "During its first three
free elections this year, Indonesia showed its surprising maturity. The
elections took a peaceful course and took place without considerable
irregularities, and in a nonchalant way, Indonesia demonstrated that democracy
and Islam fit together. In the
multi-religious country, in which 85 percent of the people are Muslims, Islamic
forces remained without a chance.... It
is also the first time that all parliamentary deputies got a democratic mandate. There are no more seats that are reserved for
the military, but the majority of parliamentarians are opposed to the
president. The irony of this democratic
progress is that the future president but also the parliamentarians can refer
to the mandate of the people.... If both
sides are unwilling to make compromises and block each other wherever they can,
democracy could be damaged...and if the democratically-elected politicians
fail, democracy could soon end again."
"Hope Based On Despair"
Manuela Kessler opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung
of Munich (9/22): "This vote, only
six years after the ouster of dictator Soeharto, is tantamount to a minor
revolution.... There is no doubt that
the people deserve respect for their political strength.... But the break with traditional hierarchies is
an act of despair. General Yudhoyono may
promise better, more democratic developments, but it is a mystery which forces
the coming president can gather behind him, who filled his election campaign
funds, and how he can implement his great promises if the dominating parties in
parliament do not support his course? If
he wants to implement his policy, he has only two possible strategies: the ex-general can either eliminate the
legislative with the support of the military or he can take joint action with
the discredited parties. Both approaches
would contradict democrat rules.
Everything else would mean that Yughoyono would remain ineffective as
president. Indonesia's path to democracy
is still long. And this bitter pill could overstretch the patience of the
people. If the ordeal is too long, an
unbridled revolt will be looming. There
is a reason to it that the term 'amok' comes from the Indonesian
"Kickstart For Indonesia"
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
declared (9/22): "Yudhoyono must
now become active at two fronts: international investors demand an improvement
of the legal system and the elimination of political influence and corruption
in and on large-scale companies.... But
the president must also offer the ordinary Indonesian a new perspective. Unlike the Indian government and the
Philippine president after their re-election, he did not say anything
concerning the elimination of poverty and new programs for agriculture. It will become a balancing act to implement
the necessary tough reforms and to socially cushion them. A flirtation with investors will not be
"Chance To Be All Smiles"
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine judged (9/21): "Following three unfortunate transition
leaders, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be the first directly elected president
who will move into the Indonesian governmental palace. He shoulders an enormous responsibility. Six years after the end of the Suharto
dictatorship, Indonesia is longing for a dividend of the democratic new
beginning. His predecessor Megawati
Sukarnoputri… disappointed many hopes.
Yudhoyono, who is part of the Indonesian establishment, will have
difficulty keeping to his election campaign promises. If he succeeds in effectively fighting
terrorism and reviving the downtrodden economy, he could achieve even more than
consolidating the Indonesian belief in democracy. As leader of a liberal Muslim nation that is
looking ahead in a self-confident way, he would have the chance to shine deeply
into the Islamic world. The election day
already sent a message to the Islamic world: a peaceful change is possible -
you only have to fight for democracy before."
Yudhoyono Mobilizes Government To Fight Terror"
Pavel Shlykov noted in business-oriented Kommersant
(9/27): "It is now absolutely
certain that the winner is General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who polled more
than 60 percent of the vote.... The
incumbent president of Indonesia Megavati Sukarnoputri, who lost the election,
came to power in July 2001.... It is
unusual for a Muslim country to elect a female president. But the Indonesians
believed that the daughter of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, would be
able to take the country out of its crisis....
But it so happened that Megavati Sukarnoputri became the victim of her
main achievement, political stability. It enabled the country to hold first
parliamentary and then presidential elections. By comparison with the passive
Megavati Sukarnoputri who looks to international assistance in the fight
against terror and is committed to gradual economic improvements, the
charismatic retired general is promising to rule with an iron fist to deliver
the country from corruption and terrorism and build a vertical power structure
is more appealing to the majority of Indonesians."
Mikhail Tsyganov filed for business-oriented Kommersant
(9/21): "Despite its reputation as an icon of Indonesian democracy,
President Megawati has been unable to cope with widespread corruption and
invigorate the economy. Slowed economic
growth, stepped up deindustrialization, separatism, religious strife, and the
threat of Islamic terrorism are the features of present-day Indonesia. No wonder the nation yarns for a strongman,
someone like Sukharto."
Left-of-center El País editorialized (9/24): "The future president, raised
politically in Suharto's shadow, has an historic opportunity. Indonesia has serious problems, such as
separatist movements in various parts of the country, interdenominational
violence, economic stagnation, and its status as a favorite target for Islamic
terrorism in this part of the world....
The apparent ease with which Indonesia, after decades of autocracy, has
moved to democratic habits...appears to reject any temptation of the an elected
president to go back to any form of unelected government...the electoral
results mark new times. This hopeful vote in Indonesia shows an open rejection
of Islamic extremism and the wish for profound changes. The first important appointments (by
Yudhoyono) will show the amount of reformist ambition he will have."
UAE: "Tribute To
The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times
noted (9/21): "Indonesia, the
world’s most populous Muslim country, is going through some fascinating
changes. Thanks to democracy’s many
blessings, the first ever direct presidential election of the country is set to
throw out the very government that conducted the poll. It only goes to underscore the genuine nature
of democracy in the far eastern country and is a tribute to the democratic
character of its people. If numerous
opinion polls and yesterday’s exit polls are to be taken seriously, Monday’s
poll has all but sealed the fate of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.... Contrary to perceptions in Western media, it
is not the Western concerns like the so-called war on terror and rising
extremism that agitated the Indonesian voter during these polls. The Indonesians, like any other people
anywhere in the world, have been preoccupied with more mundane issues like
unemployment, rising prices and endemic corruption. Yudhoyono, if elected, would have to address
these concerns on war footing. Megawati
has presided over a terribly corrupt, inept and indifferent government. That is why; the Indonesians — under
Yudhoyono — would expect a speedy transition to a cleaner, more dynamic and
responsive administration. Also, the new
leader has to revive the country’s sluggish economy and deliver on employment
and security fronts. The country has yet
to recover from last week's stunning attack on Australia mission in
Jakarta. The US-trained general, who
burst forth on the stage of national politics out of nowhere, would need all
the luck and prayers to help him with the challenges awaiting him."
Wins In Muslim Lands"
Haroon Siddiqui observed in the liberal Toronto Star
(9/23): "Given a chance, Muslims,
like any other people, opt for democracy. That's not what we are often told--by
America, which prefers autocratic puppets in Muslim lands and by racists who
equate terrorism with Islam and all Muslims. Indonesia, the world's most
populous Muslim nation, has just held a fair and peaceful election in which the
incumbent president was toppled.... In
nearby Malaysia, which held its own elections some months ago, in which
Islamists also lost badly, an emerging independent judiciary has just freed a
former deputy prime minister after six years in jail. Moderation has triumphed
in both places, as it has wherever Muslims have been given a
choice: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc.... The lesson is clear: It is foolish to think
that terrorism runs in Muslim blood.
Indonesian voters rejected more than militancy. In tossing out
Wiranto, they passed judgment on a former chief of the army and defence
minister who was accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor and under
whose watch 10,000 Muslims and Christians were killed in sectarian
clashes.... The voters also showed
remarkable independence in ignoring the dictates of village elders and other
traditional authority figures. Not bad for a people who have been free only six
years since toppling autocrat President Suharto through a popular
"New Leader Will Be Good For Indonesia"
David Warren commented in the nationalist Ottawa Citizen
(9/22): "The apparent landslide
victory of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the Indonesian presidential election is
promising. The former general has a reputation for getting things done; he has
no time for Indonesia's Jihadis. He
knows that free enterprise within a stable constitutional order is the way out
of membership in the Third World.... He
is clean, competent, and energized. From the U.S. point of view, his election
might be considered the equivalent of one free, $500-billion invasion. Among
the more stupid things the Clinton administration did in toying with U.S.
national security was to cancel training programs with the Indonesian military
to protest human rights abuses.... Make
no mistake, Yudhoyono will be president of Indonesia. He will not simply take
orders from the State Department in Washington.... He will be an earnest champion of Indonesia's
economic interests against things like U.S. trading restrictions. He will not pose politically as an
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press concluded (9/21): "Mr. Susilo's victory will be favourably
received in western capitals, particularly in Washington which made no secret
that he was the American preference. Megawati had been a sympathetic ally of
the U.S., but she was an ineffectual leader and militant Islamic tendencies
increased under her watch.... As a
Muslim country with close ties to the West, it is an important ally, a strong
counterbalance to those who argue that Islam and western civilization cannot
co-exist. For that reason, Canada, the U.S. and Europe need to invest heavily
in the health of Indonesian democracy. Mr. Susilo and Megawati do not differ
much in their policies or their approach to Indonesia's problems. Those
problems--regional violence and endemic corruption chief among them--have
plagued Indonesia as long as it has been a nation. Megawati was unable to
address them to Indonesians' satisfaction.
This time, for the first time, they had the option of choosing someone
they think can do better. Mr. Susilo's military background is perhaps a cause
for concern given the army's domination of the country's politics for more than
50 years, but the fact that Indonesia could make that choice offers its best
chance for a better future."