indonesian president
Indonesia says goodbye to their once autocratic government with the announcement of new president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, in the world’s third largest democracy. Former president Prabowo Subianto admitted to cheating tactics in the voting process, further proving the need for a new government structure.

Before the results were announced, Reuters conducted a short interview and got a glimpse of Indonesia’s promising future. Jokowi vowed, “to simplify life for investors by beefing up the country’s threadbare infrastructure, unravel near impenetrable regulations and sack ministers if they were not up to the job.”

The Indonesian president shows the drive necessary to create honest and helpful change for the economy, by reinforcing the weak spots and softening regulation to allow greater variety of imports and exports. Jokowi presents an openness not before seen in the Indonesian government. He wants input from not solely businessmen, but also from ordinary men and women.

In most of Indonesia’s elections, the winners tend to come from the same circle of top tier businessmen, who collude with one another to put at least one of their party in power. Jokowi reigns from the middle class, proudly not a member of the elitist party.

With the victory in place, Jokowi has his work cut out for him. One of his most difficult tasks for the near future will be cutting into fuel subsidies that consume a fifth of the annual budget and create heavy distortion within the economy.

Jokowi’s biggest supporters have been students, both in Indonesia and abroad. Upon the announcement of his win, students gathered in celebration. The Jakarta Post interviewed a number of them, receiving positive feedback from every direction.

Fenty Forsyth, a multi-cultural activist in Brisbane, acknowledged, “The fact is that it is easy to divide Indonesia. To pit people against one another is a chronic disease that has to be cured. It is not easy but it is not impossible.” Many agree that Jokowi sees the divide and will be able to create tangible change for people.

Jokowi’s struggles as president-elect do not go unnoticed by surrounding territories. As the new leader-to-be of the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Jokowi has the potential to build and burn bridges between Indonesia and China yet again. If China wants something from Indonesia, they will push hard to see if they get a response – a typical plan of action for China when it comes to handling new leaders in the area.

Even with the threat of aggressive tactics, it’s unlikely Jokowi will succumb to the pressure. His feet are grounded in Indonesian soil, with the country’s priorities in the forefront of his mind.

-Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, Jakarta Post, Bloomberg
Photo: Reuters

Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election, currently slated for July 9, gained a great deal of attention when the National Commission on Human Rights refused to examine the human rights records of any of the presidential candidates.

Since the announcement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has given questionnaires to all of the candidates in order to demonstrate that the candidates want to improve Indonesia’s human rights record. As of now, HRW has distributed the questionnaire to Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, Aburizal Bakrie for the Golkar Party, Prabowo Subianto for the Gerindra Party, Wiranto for the Hanura Party, Rhoma Irama for the National Awakening Party, as well as to the parties who have not yet decided on their presidential nomination.

The questionnaire asks how committed the candidates will be in improving areas where a large amount of religious violence is occurring. These areas include Aceh, Banten, East Java, West Java and West Sumatra.

Additionally, the HRW is asking candidates if they plan to comply with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) recommendation to allow foreign journalists to enter into Papua and if they will release political prisoners.

The HRW should receive responses by May 16 and will publish their findings in early June, prior to the presidential election.

However, the record of Prabowo Subianto, the candidate for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerinda Party) has recently come under scrutiny. Human rights groups are questioning Prabow’s actions from when he started as an officer in the military to his actions as a three-star general.

Human groups are calling for an investigation regarding Prabowo’s actions in East Timor in the 1980s following allegations that he ordered a massacre of over 300 civilians. Additionally, these groups are claiming that Prabowo was “responsible for the abduction and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998, and for orchestrating riots in May 1998” which ultimately resulted in “more than 1,000 deaths and the rapes of at least 168 women.”

In 2006, the National Commission on Human Rights issued a report with the names of 11 people, including Prabowo, who they thought should be prosecuted in the abductions of those 23 activists.

Prabowo’s military career ended because of the abductions case, where he accepted responsibility for the torture of 9 of the activists, but said that he was not responsible for ordering the abductions or torture and said nothing about the other 14 activists.

In regard to the emphasis on human rights in the upcoming election, HRW’s deputy Asia director Phelim Kine has said, “Indonesia’s next president will inherit serious human rights problems requiring leadership and commitment.” Kine went on to say, “Indonesian voters should insist that presidential candidates make explicit their plans to promote and strengthen human rights in the country.”

The winner of the election will serve as the second Indonesian president to be directly elected by the public. Whether or not the human rights records of the candidates have a strong impact on who is elected will be determined in July.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, The Huffington Post, The Jakarta Post
Photo: The Asia Foundation