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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

September 27, 2004

September 27, 2004





**  Indonesian papers are "proud" of the "peaceful and well-managed" election.

**  The election proves that "democracy and Islam fit together." 

**  President-elect Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's must end "corrupt crony capitalism." 

**  Skeptics express concern about Susilo's "weak" political base. 




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) 203-7888,


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 recent date.




INDONESIA:  "A New Dawn Ahead?"


The independent English-language Jakarta Post argued (9/23):  "Susilo Bambang 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 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 country.”


"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 political consequences."


"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 whatsoever.”


"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 Trust"


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."


AUSTRALIA:  "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 President."


"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 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 by comparison."


"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.”


"Now Yudhoyono"


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 years ago."


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 Susilo"


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 lost."


JAPAN:  "Indonesia:  Hopes For Yudhoyono"


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." 


"Indonesia:  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 reform."


"The New Yudhoyono System:  Exterminating Terrorism Is The Key To Bilateral Relations"


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 Indonesia"


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 Jakarta." 


SINGAPORE:  "New 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."


SOUTH KOREA:  "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 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."


THAILAND:  "Yudhoyono’s 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 to win.”




GERMANY:  "It Works"


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, too."


"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 language."


"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 enough."


"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."


RUSSIA:  "General 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."


"Déjà Vu?"


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."


SPAIN:  "Indonesia's Challenges"


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 Democracy"


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."




CANADA:  "Moderation 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 uprising."


"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 Americanizer."


"Islamic Democracy"


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."



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