Joko Widodo has won the presidency of Indonesia in a genuinely competitive election that came down to the wire. It is hard to say exactly when the country became a democracy; it happened gradually after the fall of the dictator Suharto in 1998. And this election marks a further consolidation of representative government in Indonesia.
Mr. Widodo may or may not become a successful president, but at least his entry into politics had nothing to do with membership in a dynastic clique, unlike some of his predecessors. He became an effective mayor of the city of Solo in Java, with a population of half a million people. Then for two years he was the governor of Jakarta, the country’s capital, and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the world.
Mr. Widodo will have to acquire some new skills as the president of a diverse archipelago. And his party holds only 109 out of 560 seats in parliament, so passing budgets and laws will not be easy.
Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, the world’s third-most populous democracy and fourth most populous country. It has the world’s largest Muslim population. Income per capita has quintupled in a decade and the growth rate is 5 per cent. The median age is 29 – a striking contrast both to aging China and the aging West.
Like other emerging markets, it is still highly dependent on exports of commodities, and on sales to China.
In 2011, Fidelity Investments grouped together fast-developing Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, alleging that “these MINTs won’t suck.” Such prophecies may tempt the fates, but Indonesia merits much more attention than it gets. Joko Widodo is a promising president. The world should wish him, and his adolescent democracy, well.
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