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Showing posts for "Indonesia"

Indonesia’s Democracy Takes a Hit

by Joshua Kurlantzick
joko widodo-swearing in Indonesia's president-elect and current Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo looks up as he leaves a swearing-in ceremony of new local legislators at the city council in Jakarta on September 26, 2014. Indonesia's parliament on Friday approved a measure ending direct elections for governors and mayors, a move Widodo criticized as a "big step back" for democracy in the country. Indonesia introduced direct elections for regional leaders in 2005, allowing the emergence of a new breed of politician free of links to the political elite, with Widodo being the best-known example (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy: Reuters).

Last week, I warned that the passage of a proposed law by Indonesia’s parliament that would end direct elections of local officials would be a major blow to Indonesian democracy. The legislation had been championed by the most retrograde elements in Indonesia, and in particular by the party of the losing presidential candidate in this past July’s election, Prabowo Subianto. Direct election of local and provincial officials had been a critical post-Suharto reform, a major part of Indonesia’s decentralization process, and a vital element of political empowerment. Direct elections had helped create a new group of younger Indonesian political leaders who actually had to serve their local publics or—horrors!—risk being booted out of office, and it also (somewhat) shifted the political balance of power away from Jakarta and out across the archipelago. Such a process of decentralization only made sense in a vast and diverse country.  Allowing for more local and provincial elections did increase the possibility of graft in holding more polls, as I noted in my book Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline in Representative Government. But, for most Indonesians, this was a reasonable price to pay to (generally) get more responsive local government. And in any event, earlier methods of selecting local leaders—basically, they were hand-chosen by Suharto and his allies—still had led to enormous amounts of rent-seeking. Read more »

Indonesia’s Democratic Showdown

by Joshua Kurlantzick
joko widodo-2 Indonesia's President-Elect Joko Widodo gestures while his Vice President-Elect Jusuf Kalla looks on as they prepare to speak with the media at their transition headquarters in Jakarta on September 15, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy: Reuters).

In the wake of the election of Joko Widodo as Indonesia’s president, many Indonesians were hopeful that the country’s nascent democracy finally had proved its strength and that Widodo, known to all as Jokowi, would be able to build on his election and leave a legacy of dramatic political reform. After all, Jokowi was the first president who came from politics in the post-Suharto era, and he was also the first president to have risen up in politics organically rather than through elite political maneuvering—he had emerged as a national politician partly as a result of the decentralization Indonesia undertook a decade ago that allowed for direct elections. Jokowi had risen from mayor of Solo, where he delivered effective governance, to mayor of Jakarta, and finally to presidential candidate. He had the strongest credentials as a democrat of any leader in modern Indonesian history. Read more »

Jokowi’s Priorities

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Joko Widodo Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo speaks to the media at a press briefing in the garden of his home in Jakarta on August 21, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy: Reuters).

As the new president of Indonesia (don’t tell Prabowo Subianto), Joko Widodo has a full plate. The economy is slowing down, the education system is one of the worst in the region, the country’s physical infrastructure is crumbling, the region is looking to Indonesia as a natural leader, and the man defeated in the presidential election is vowing to use his power in parliament to block every move the president makes. And Jokowi himself, despite his credentials as a democrat and his success as a mayor, has little national or international experience. He also will be spending most of these first months trying to bolster his support in parliament and pick off members of Prabowo’s coalition rather than getting down to governing and policy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 22, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Thailand's newly appointed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (front), reviews honor guards on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 21, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). Thailand's newly appointed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (front), reviews honor guards on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 21, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed prime minister. In a 191-0 vote on Thursday, Thailand’s rubber-stamp legislature named as prime minister the general who in May led the military coup of Thailand’s elected government. General Prayuth awaits an expected endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 8, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing, on June 2, 2010. Microsoft Corp appears to be the latest U.S. company targeted by China for anti-trust investigation after government officials paid sudden visits to the software firm's Chinese offices on July 28, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing, on June 2, 2010. Microsoft Corp appears to be the latest U.S. company targeted by China for anti-trust investigation after government officials paid sudden visits to the software firm's Chinese offices on July 28, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China cracks down on U.S. technology companies. Beijing has begun warning Chinese officials to stop buying U.S. information technology, including antivirus defense by Symantec (as well as Russian Kaspersky Lab), Apple products, and Microsoft software, for national security reasons. China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce conducted surprise inspections of Microsoft’s China offices, saying that it suspected monopolistic practices. The probe now includes consulting firm Accenture, which consults for Microsoft on financial issues. Beijing also banned its officials from buying iPads and other Apple products [Chinese]. China has a long history of tension with Microsoft and other U.S. technology companies, which has been exacerbated since Edward Snowden began releasing information about NSA practices that target China. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 25, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A customer walks past a KFC store in Shanghai on July 22, 2014. The latest food scandal in China is spreading fast, dragging in Starbucks, Burger King, and others, as well as McDonald's products as far away as Japan (Aly Song/Courtesy: Reuters). A customer walks past a KFC store in Shanghai on July 22, 2014. The latest food scandal in China is spreading fast, dragging in Starbucks, Burger King, and others, as well as McDonald's products as far away as Japan (Aly Song/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Meat scandal erupts in China. Shanghai Husi Food Co., a Chinese food supplier owned by the Illinois-based global food processor OSI Group Inc., has been shown to have repackaged old meat and changed expiration dates before shipping it to retailers. Some of the world’s best-known chain restaurants, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks, were sold the rotten meat and have been forced to alter their supply chains or cancel the sale of some products entirely. The Shanghai police have detained five employees of Shanghai Husi, and the head of the OSI Group has accepted “responsibility for these missteps.” Read more »

What Jokowi Should Do Now

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS) Indonesia's new president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta, on July 23, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

Certified as the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election by the country’s election commission, Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has a tough road ahead of him. To defeat challenges to and establish his authority as president, Jokowi will have to work quickly and operate, at least at first, in a style that is not his norm. The former Jakarta governor is a low-key politician, uncomfortable making weighty stump speeches, and unused to the gravitas that comes with the presidency; he has a mayoral style and prefers walking the streets, talking to people, and coming up with pragmatic solutions to problems. But now, Jokowi will have to move outside his comfort zone if he is to establish his legitimacy. Read more »

So Many Southeast Asia Top Events, So Many Questions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group holds a picture of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 10, 2014 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters). A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group holds a picture of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 10, 2014 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

The past week has been so busy with events, both tragic and hopeful, related to Southeast Asia, that I barely have time to keep up with the news.  A few short thoughts:

1. Is Prabowo Going to Concede?

No way. Prabowo Subianto is now tacitly hinting in interviews that, on July 22, he might be declared the loser of Indonesia’s presidential election, and he is now using interviews to argue that, whatever the result announced on July 22, it is likely a fraud. This is a shift from his earlier position stating simply that he was going to win. On July 22 he will expand on his fraud argument and file a case to the Constitutional Court. Jokowi – and Indonesia – better be prepared for a long and drawn-out legal contest. Read more »

What Does Indonesia’s Election Standoff Mean for Indonesia’s Next President?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (C) waves to his supporters during a signing ceremony of an agreement of his coalition parties in Jakarta on July 14, 2014 (Beawiharta Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters). Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (C) waves to his supporters during a signing ceremony of an agreement of his coalition parties in Jakarta on July 14, 2014 (Beawiharta Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters).

As I have previously blogged, unless Prabowo Subianto is able to steal four to six million votes in the days before the official vote tally is released, an unlikely possibility, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo will be declared the winner of the presidential election sometime next week. Read more »

Jokowi’s High Road a Mistake

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A vendor sells newspapers to motorists the day after the Indonesian presidential election in Jakarta on July 10, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy: Reuters). A vendor sells newspapers to motorists the day after the Indonesian presidential election in Jakarta on July 10, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy: Reuters).

In the wake of July 9’s voting in Indonesia’s presidential elections, both candidates, Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, and Prabowo Subianto have declared that, according to quick counts, they have won the presidential election. For those who are not familiar with Indonesian elections, a quick count is not the same thing as an exit poll, common in Western elections; a primer on quick counts is available on New Mandala. Read more »