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Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto gestures to supporters in Jakarta after registering for the July 9 election. The former army general is calling for more of Indonesia’s mineral riches to be exploited domestically.
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto gestures to supporters in Jakarta after registering for the July 9 election. The former army general is calling for more of Indonesia’s mineral riches to be exploited domestically.
(REUTERS)

Nathan Allen

Can Indonesian democracy survive a strongman?

On July 9, Indonesian voters will choose a new president. The outcome could reverse democratic gains made in the past 15 years in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

To subvert Indonesian democracy from within, an aspiring strongman must gather a coalition capable of fielding a presidential candidate, win over a majority of voters and then use power to alter Indonesia’s institutions. A former general, Prabowo Subianto, is close to completing the first two tasks, but the third will be more difficult. He envisions returning to the institutions of the authoritarian era, but does not yet have the political support required to enact his plans. Even if democracy survives, though, Canada-Indonesia relations could be strained by the candidate’s ambition and record of human-rights abuses.