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Indonesia's new paradigm must include the past

  • 29 July 2014

The day after the result of Indonesia's presidential election was announced, I joined crowds of excited Indonesians at the Proclamation Monument in central Jakarta to celebrate president-elect Jokowi's election as Indonesia's seventh president.

Did you see the rainbow? asked a supporter, pointing to a blurry photo on his mobile phone as Jokowi arrived to address the crowd and break the Muslim fast with them. I hadn't, but even if the heavens had opened and soaked everybody to the skin, it would have been taken as another sign that God too had voted for Jokowi.

The monument commemorates the proclamation of Indonesia's independence from the Dutch made by Sukarno and Hatta in 1945. Their statues looked down on Jokowi as he proclaimed what many believe and hope is a new era in Indonesia, including its liberation from the twitching hand of Suharto's New Order. Many Indonesian commentators feel Prabowo's bid to have the result reversed in his favour by the Constitutional Court and threats to haul the Election Commission before the Parliament are no more than the New Order's death rattles.

In his speech Jokowi did not rubbish Prabowo though he was entitled to given the dirty tactics employed against him and Prabowo's petulant claim on BBC that Jokowi was a fraud whose much lauded closeness to the people was fabricated for political purposes. The personal attack fell flat. I asked my taxi driver and a street vendor what they thought of the comment. Both said how proud they were that a wong cilik or little person like them could achieve the highest office in the country. It gave them hope, not just in Indonesia, but in themselves.

In fact, Jokowi did not even mention Prabowo in his speech. It was as though Prabowo and what he stood for was no longer relevant. To avoid candidates of this kind running in future elections, the respected commentator Wimar Witoelar has proposed that aspirants for high office should receive endorsements from both Indonesia's respected Commission for Human Rights and its crusading Corruption Eradication Commission. It is to be hoped that a Jokowi administration will act on this proposal. It would enhance the quality of candidates, spare Indonesia considerable embarrassment and help eliminate impunity.

The president-elect focused his comments on the contribution to his election made by volunteers, that is, civil society. His campaign achieved an unprecedented level of citizen participation that included millions of small donations from ordinary Indonesians