Topic

Indonesia’s Path Back to Dictatorship

On 9 July, Indonesians will elect a new president. Among the favourites is Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general with authoritarian ideas. The country is at a turning point. A dossier

When the 190 million Indonesians entitled to vote choose a new president on 9 July, it will be the third direct presidential election since ex-dictator Suharto’s resignation in 1998. This event will decisively set the country’s direction.

If Suharto’s former son-in-law, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, wins, it could mean a step backwards into the times of dictatorship, believed to be long overcome, for the young democracy. Prabowo defines himself as a nationalist who takes action and is assertive. He is accused of being responsible for numerous human rights abuses during his time as general – and even of carrying out torture. He recently stated that direct elections do not fit with his country’s culture and that the political system needs to be fundamentally reformed.

Since taking office as the governor of Jakarta two years ago, Prabowo’s opponent, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, has built a reputation for his approachability and his pragmatism. He is supported by Megawati Sukarnoputri – president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004 and daughter of the first Indonesian president, Sukarno – and her party. Jokowi and Prabowo are currently in a neck-and-neck race.

GIGA academic PD Dr. Andreas Ufen researches democratization in Indonesia, with a particular focus on political parties and political Islam. Nina Korte and Karolina Prasad have recently completed their doctorates, both with dissertations on Indonesia, at the GIGA.

The most recent Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs is a special issue about local politics in Jakarta: Special Issue: Local Politics in Jakarta, Vol. 33, No. 1. The previous issue was dedicated to the overcoming of the past in relation to the massacres of 1965–66: The Massacres of 1965–1966: New Interpretations and the Current Debate in Indonesia, Vol. 32, No. 3.

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