Asia Program

A Billion Ballots for Democracy: Election Year in Indonesia

Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, Muhammad Qodari, and Jim Della-Giacoma

Six turbulent years after the fall of Suharto’s authoritarian regime, Indonesia has successfully held full nationwide elections for president and parliament. But has democracy been consolidated? Meidyatama Suryodiningrat emphasizes the importance of economic performance in keeping democracy relevant to ordinary Indonesians. The return of “benevolent” authoritarianism—a pseudo-democratic regime propped up by the military—is one possible scenario for the next 10-15 years. Muhammad Qodari contends that the elections went more smoothly than many expected, while noting that administrative glitches did occur. He maintains that voters are turning from major parties to relatively small ones, and explains similarities and differences among the “darlings of the electorate.” Jim Della-Giacoma draws upon focusgroup research to demonstrate an increase in political engagement among ordinary Indonesians. He shows how trends among voters—weakening group affiliation, for example—are affecting their candidate choice. In general, the contributors express cautious optimism about Indonesia’s democratic future, while warning against complacency. No matter which candidate wins September’s presidential runoff, governing Indonesia will prove no easy task.

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