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Elections in Indonesia: Capek Ya? (Are You Tired?)

As the world’s largest Muslim country prepares for its presidential elections, Teuku Faizasyah, spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry, congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian people on their elections Monday, Indonesia’s Antara News reports.

“I congratulate the people of Iran for the successful implementation of the democratic elections, although there are some people who are not satisfied,” Faizasyah said.

Under Ahmadenijad’s first term, the nations strengthened bilateral cooperation in various sectors, including the economy. Faizasyah’s pronouncement clearly indicated Indonesia’s commitment to maintaining its partnership with Iran, no matter the political climate.

At present, Indonesia’s political climate is dwarfed by Iran’s current maelstrom. According to the Economist, April’s ballot-casting was marred by more than 1,000 reports of electoral violations, a claim that carried on, not surprisingly, without investigation, but “competent regional officials did well.”

The Democratic Party, to which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono belongs, eclipsed the  37 other contenders and won the majority of the paliament’s 550 seats.

James Castle told CNN that the Democratic Party owes its victory to “Yudyohono’s ‘charming’ personality, and his government’s ability to weather the current worldwide financial downturn.”

The latter proved key in the Party’s dominance in these elections. Analysts attributed the economic resilience of Yudhoyono’s government to the stunting of the Islamic clusters, which lost 9.5 percent of their previous electoral support.

It is with this prioritizing of economic concerns above religious ones that have kept and will keep an Islamist from claiming victory in the presidential elections July 8.

According to Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate, Yudhayongo will collect 52.5 percent of the popular vote, followed by Sukarnoputri and Kalla.

If none of the candidates amass at least 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held between the two leading contenders.

According to TimesOnline of the United Kingdom, Sukarnoputri has chosen to run with Prabowo Subianto, a war criminal under late dictator Suharto.

Subianto was a luitenent-general and special forces commander in the 1990s who epitomized the violence and nepotism associated with the regime.

Last week, human rights groups and activists condemned him in Jakarta and East Timor, but Subianto has denied the allegations. Times reports,

He served four tours of duty in East Timor, where Indonesian occupation forces were accused of war crimes including torture, rape and murder. In the last years of the Suharto regime, special units under his command were blamed for abductions and disappearances of pro-democracy activists.

The Indonesian media reported widespread rumours that he organised mobs to loot, burn, kill and rape throughout Jakarta’s Chinatown in 1998 in an attempt to sow chaos and pave the way for a coup.

After Suharto stepped down, Prabowo was accused of threatening the new president, B J Habibie, by deploying his commandos around the palace.

Prabowo went into exile but has made a comeback thanks to a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign funded by his brother, a tycoon.

Analysts predict that the election of Megawati will strengthen Subianto, whom they perceive to be the stronger and more effective of the two.

In conjunction with aggressive campaigning at home, Yudhayongo began talks with President Obama at the G20 Summit in April, prompting the President to schedule a visit to Jakarta later this year.

President Obama told Yudhoyono in a 10-minute phone conversation in March that he wanted to build “a comprehensive partnership” between the two countries,” The Jakarta Post reports.

Indonesians hope that both the partnership and the visit will be more than a sentimental nod to Obama’s boyhood, and will bear fruits such as developmental assistance, reports Asia Times.

Although the country’s economy grew by 6.1% in 2008, Indonesia, like the rest of the world, is  suffering from the recession, and the $6 billion stimulus package approved by Yudhayongo has yet to budge the downturned economy.

Indonesia requires strong partners in the trembling global economy, be it Iran or the United States, and its post-electoral leader will determine the scope and direction of the loyalties reciprocated.

— Tina Carter, ’10
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