Indonesia’s elections commission has certified 10 local and two foreign survey groups – the European Union and the US-based National Democratic Institute – to undertake quick counts (aka Parallel Vote Tabulations) for the forthcoming legislative and presidential elections. The commission also certified 24 local and seven foreign observer organizations.
“Many Indonesians believe that their experience with economic development, political reform, and Islamic terrorism gives it the authority to speak to the challenges facing the Islamic community such as poverty, oppression, and ‘Islamophobia’”, writes Ann Marie Murphy of Seton Hall University.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy, illustrates how “Islam, democracy and modernity cannot only coexist but thrive together,” said US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said on her recent visit.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono contends that Islam should embrace technology, modernity, and a culture of excellence. Indonesia is taking tentative steps to promote democracy abroad, insisting on a democracy and human rights clause in the new ASEAN charter, and launching the Bali Democracy Forum, which will convene some 30 Asian states to share political reform best practices.
“Democracy promotion Indonesian style differs greatly from its US counterpart,” Murphy suggests. As with democracy assistance activists and organizations from formerly communist states, practical experience feeds political credibility:
Most Americans have never lived under anything but a democratic system, so democracy promotion is often an ideological crusade by people who lack an appreciation of the difficulties involved in building viable democratic regimes. Indonesians, in contrast, lived through decades of authoritarianism before embarking on a transition to democracy in 1998. Indonesia’s efforts to promote democracy, therefore, are based not only on ideology, but also on a pragmatic appreciation of the benefits. Many Indonesian diplomats claim that what gives their democracy promotion efforts credibility is their ability to tell others, “if we can do it with all of our problems, you can do it too”.