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Indonesia’s New President: Fanfare for the Common Man

The Economist, 26 July 2014

Jokowi’s victory is a landmark; he now has to balance reconciliation with decisive leadership

IN A year thick with bad news, much of it about Islam, it is perhaps surprising that the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country should produce the most heartening piece of politics so far. Yet the announcement on July 22nd that Joko Widodo, universally known as Jokowi, had won Indonesia’s general election is just that.

Above all, this is a triumph for democracy, albeit a somewhat messy one. In a country which was run by the Suharto dictatorship 16 years ago, the election marks the first time that one popularly elected leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, makes way for another. Democratic transitions in Asia do not always go smoothly—think of Burma in 1990 or Thailand’s recurring dramas. Indonesia’s is still not wholly secure. The runner-up, Prabowo Subianto, a volatile former general and son-in-law of the late dictator, has claimed large-scale fraud and is leaning on the Constitutional Court to annul the result (see article). But given the six percentage-point margin of Jokowi’s victory, Mr Prabowo is unlikely to get far.

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