Indonesia: Voters Choose to Remain on Path of Economic Development

A regional power that prides itself on being a leader in Southeast Asia is aiming to become a developed country in the future. The next administration will be tested on whether it can achieve results with the same emphasis on the economy as the current administration of President Joko Widodo.

The Indonesian presidential election was held, and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who said he intends to continue Joko’s policies, has won. Joko is stepping down at the end of his term and the new administration will take office in October.

The three candidates running for president were Prabowo, former Special Capital Region of Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo.

Prabowo’s campaign policies focused on the economy. He said continuing to develop the nation’s sophisticated industrial structure, which has been promoted by the Joko administration, with the aim of joining the ranks of advanced nations in 2045, would lead to the creation of a large number of jobs.

He also called for the government to control exports of minerals, agricultural products and other commodities, and to promote attracting foreign capital so the funds could be used domestically and add value. He said efforts will be continued to relocate the country’s capital, a signature policy of Joko to eliminate regional disparities.

During the 10 years of Joko’s two terms, Indonesia has continued to enjoy stable growth and the people have come to feel more financially well-off. Joko’s approval rating is still extremely high at around 70%.

Expectations for this growth to continue under the next administration probably helped Prabowo win the election. Support from the younger generation is particularly strong.

Since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship, which lasted for about 30 years until 1998, Indonesia has been undergoing a process of democratization. It can be said that the democratic system is the main reason Indonesia has been able to realize economic growth and good relations with the United States and China under the Joko administration.

However, there are some concerns. Joko has taken steps in recent years to set back democracy through such measures as controlling speech, and Prabowo was a senior military officer during the Suharto era and is suspected of being involved in human rights abuses.

The appointment of Joko’s eldest son as Prabowo’s running mate has also been criticized as nepotism.

What the people of Indonesia and the international community would probably like to see is development under a democratic system. Prabowo should meet those expectations.

Indonesia is the largest maritime power among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and is also one of the main countries of the so-called Global South of emerging and developing nations, as well as a major country of the Muslim world.

For Japan, Indonesia is an important partner that shares such values as freedom of navigation and the rule of law. Japan needs to encourage Indonesia’s development and deepen cooperation to maintain stability in the region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2024)