Eight years after launching a highly ambitious political reform program, Indonesia has surprised many analysts and academics by how quickly and smoothly the world’s fourth-largest country has consolidated meaningful democratic gains. Since 1998, Indonesia has overhauled every fundamental aspect of its former authoritarian state, including an amended constitution, a more powerful parliament and a reformed election system.
In 2004, the country’s first-ever direct presidential elections — in which former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected on a strong reform ticket — represented a democratic high-water mark. What’s gone less noticed over that same period have been 250 or so different local elections.
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