What's next for Indonesia's Election?

Dr. Peter Carey, Adjunct Professor, Universitas Indonesia spoke at Asia Society Hong Kong Center on November 26, 2013.

HONG KONG, November 26, 2013 — Historian Dr. Peter Carey of Universitas Indonesia put the forthcoming presidential elections in a context through Indonesia’s passage to the modern world beginning with the struggle to overcome the colonial legacies of the Dutch rule and Japanese occupation, to the current struggle for real and meaningful independence. Indonesians can look to the future with hope as the presidential elections may usher in a new era of politicians. After years of suffering under corrupt political officials, Jakarta Governor and likely presidential candidate Haji Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, has “helped round up the political dynasties and cutback corruption” with his “hands-on business style” political leadership, Dr. Carey explained.

Dr. Carey spoke of the necessity of this new style of leadership stating the legacy of the Dutch colonial rule and Japanese occupation was the lack of civil society and democracy, leaving an unenlightened Indonesian society in its wake. After Indonesia gained independence, the first free elections were held in 1955. With the newly elected leaders came additional challenges and by 1959, the democratic system had proved unsuccessful. This gave way for Sukarno to introduce his “guided democracy” later followed by Suharto’s “New Order.” According to Dr. Carey, throughout Sukarno and Suharto’s leadership, Indonesia suffered a “deep freeze” and was unable to deal with many social and economic issues. It was not until the next free elections in July 1999, and the major reforms implemented by President Abdurrahman Wahid, the political landscape of Indonesia began to brighten.

Indonesia finally began opening up to new ideas and was able to deal with many social issues. Dr. Carey said President Wahid’s reforms opened up the floodgates, and “the flood will lead to remarkable changes.” It is the new style of political leadership of Gov. Jokowi and his deputy Ahok will bring with their strong character, honesty, knowledge and skills that will ensure these remarkable changes are realized.

Indonesia will continue to face challenges as they strive to catch up with the rest of the world, economically, politically and socially, but Dr. Carey believes with a new generation of political leaders, especially with Jokowi in the forefront, it is possible for Indonesia to gain ground.


Reported by Megan A. Kincaid, the City University of Hong Kong.