The Business Times

Indonesia faces prospect of positive change

Published Wed, Jul 23, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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THE victory of Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the just-concluded presidential election in Indonesia offers the promise of constructive change in South-east Asia's largest country - although it is more likely to be incremental than radical, at least for now. Politically, Mr Joko's victory is a watershed in that it points to a maturation of Indonesia's still-young democracy. Mr Joko, a former furniture seller, will be the first president who does not hail from the country's political elite or have a military background. Although he has served as mayor of both Jakarta and his home town Solo, he is still viewed by the country's political establishment as an outsider. Indeed that, together with his "clean" image, was part of his allure as a candidate, and it is, in many ways, an asset - he has less political baggage than his predecessors and more latitude to promote change.

Before he assumes the presidency in October, Mr Joko could have a political speed-bump to negotiate, in the form of a constitutional challenge to the legitimacy of his victory, mounted by his erstwhile opponent, Prabowo Subianto, who has alleged that the election was riddled with fraud. But given the 6.3 per cent margin of Mr Joko's victory, its legitimacy is likely to be reconfirmed - all the more so given that there are signs of cracks in Mr Prabowo's own coalition.

In the run-up to his swearing-in on Oct 20, Mr Joko will have to focus on coalition building. There is the possibility of a positive surprise here - some observers expect that a few coalition members of Mr Prabowo's camp, including from the powerful Golkar group and the United Development Party, could defect to the Jokowi coalition. This would strengthen Mr Joko's mandate.

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