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RIDING HIGH

While a large part of West Asia gets sucked into one of the worst sectarian conflicts in history, another Muslim-majority nation in southeast Asia seems to be having a problem growing into a full-fledged democracy. Indonesia has given itself its third directly-elected president after an electoral contest that would do any nation proud. The Jakarta governor, Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, has garnered 53.15 per cent of the vote share and defeated his contender, Prabowo Subianto, by a narrow but discernible margin of six percentage points. The election result has been challenged and, for a time, there was a chance that matters, once it reached the constitutional court, would drag on for a few more months. But the coalition of powerful parties that was backing Mr Prabowo seems to be unravelling fast. Somehow, it has sunk in that the nation is in a hurry for change, and will not brook any further delay. Indonesia is in a cusp not very different from the one India finds itself in, and, much like India, it seems to have zeroed in on a leader who, it thinks, will deliver. Indonesia, too, experienced two terms of the same government — that of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — before the crucial elections, and found its growth-rate dropping, infrastructure and industry in a shambles, while corruption and nepotism were on a steady rise. It expects its new president, who has a convincing record of providing a good, people-friendly, clean administration and good decision-making skills — first, as the mayor of a city in central Java and, then, as the governor of Jakarta — to work his magic again.

It goes without saying that Jokowi, the new president, has a tough time ahead, especially since, unlike Narendra Modi in India, his party or coalition does not have a majority in the parliament that was formed in April. To turn things around, he would need to cut down on the suicidal fuel subsidies, attract foreign direct investment while trying to keep intact the rhetoric on national self-reliance that both the contending parties in the elections drummed up to a fever-high pitch. He also has to develop the infrastructure, and curb red-tapism and Indonesia’s endemic corruption, both of which are going to bring him into direct conflict with the established elite of the country, who back his rival, Mr Prabowo. For now, though, Jokowi, like Mr Modi, may well ride the wave of expectations and see how far that carries him.