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Indonesia Matters

Indonesia Matters

By Mascha Peters

1 June 2018

Indonesia Before the 2019 Elections – A “Big Country”? 

There are many reasons why Indonesia matters to the EU. Its size in land and people - Indonesia is the world’s largest island state with the world’s fourth largest population – corresponds with an unparalleled ethnical and religious diversity with over 300 ethnic and language groups in what is the world’s largest Muslim majority nation-state and the third largest democracy. 

On 9 July 2014 Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was elected as Indonesia’s seventh president. His victory - the narrowest since the end of the Suharto regime in 1998 (53% against 47% for his opponent, Prabowo Subianto) - raised expectations from the outset: The former Governor of Jakarta is the first Indonesian president without a high-ranking political or military background. Born in 1961 of Javanese origin, he studied forestry and ran a furniture factory before entering politics. A party outsider, he rose to power on the back of personal charisma and his reputation as a clean politician. His promise of change earned him the support of Indonesia’s large youth population; and next to Modi in India he was celebrated as Asia’s rising star.

The Political Situation

In the 2019 presidential elections Widodo could be re-elected for a second and last five-year term. His popularity has been growing steadily with approval rates at around 60 % which is more than double the level at the start of his presidential term. But criticism of his administration has mounted due to the economic slowdown and rising unemployment. There are other issues, too: The growth of Islamic extremism and a rising tide of intolerance, most recently against the Indonesia’s LGBT community, is increasingly raising the question whether the country remains a model of moderate Islam. 

Internationally Indonesia claims to be a “big country” – negara besar- but has not become a major player on the world stage even though it is a member of the G20. In its present campaign for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, Indonesia presents itself as a bridge- and consensus-builder, but Foreign minister Retno Marsudi, the first female in the position, has struggled to make an impact as President Widodo’s clear priorities are domestic. At the same time, Indonesia faces major challenges with regard to China, its relations with the US and the future of ASEAN. 

Currently Widodo presides over a government coalition of four secular and three Islamic parties. He has managed to co-opt more hard-line Islamic voices like the United Development Party (PPP) as well as the former main opposition party, Golkar, which since the last cabinet reshuffle holds three ministerial positions in Widodo’s cabinet. Another notable move is the president’s appointment of former army personnel like four-star general and retired chief of Indonesia’s armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) Moeldoko, who in January was nominated as Presidential Chief of Staff. Given the political ambitions of Prabowo Subianto, Gerindra party chief and former lieutenant general, who is likely to challenge Widodo again in 2019, support of the TNI might prove to be useful in the presidential campaign.

Nawa Cita– the nine priorities

Indonesia is still a young democracy. In May this year it will be 20 years since Suharto’s “New Order” came to an end. After 32 years of authoritarian rule the country faced radical changes both politically and economically, as it was hit hard by the Asian crisis of 1997/98. Post-Suharto Indonesia, in the course of what became known as the “Reformasi”, took important steps towards democratization – free elections, freedom of the press and independence to East Timor. When Widodo won the presidency over Subianto, son-in-law of the late Suharto and well embedded in the country’s still powerful old elite, it was celebrated as a triumph for democracy. 

Widodo’s vision for Indonesia is summarized in the Nawa Cita (Sanskrit for “Nine Priorities”), which he introduced in his 2014 presidential campaign. Key aspects include reforming the bureaucracy, enhancing accountability, curbing corruption, fighting nepotism; and on the economic side increasing public investment in the country’s deficient infrastructure, energy and education: Indonesia lacks skilled labour and needs to find jobs for its rapidly growing young population. 

New economic strategy?

Indonesia’s economic performance is the most important factor in Widodo’s re-election prospects and he has made it his top priority. In 2014 he promised 7 % growth but Indonesia’s economy, substantially tied to commodities (crude oil, rubber, coal, crude palm oil, base metals, liquified natural gas), suffered under China’s slowdown. This prompted the president to appoint new economic and trade ministers in August 2015 followed by a sweeping change in key economic ministries (finance, industry, trade) only one year later. The second reshuffle in particular seemed to illustrate a new economic strategy, moving beyond the traditional approach of relying on resources towards a more production-oriented approach with less volatile and higher value-added manufacturing as the engine for growth.

Indonesia’s economy is the world’s 16thlargest by nominal GDP and 8theconomy in the world in purchasing power parity. Currently representing some 36% of ASEAN’s GDP, Indonesia’s economy by some estimates could be the world’s fifth largest economy by 2030. This year, economic growth is expected to strengthen to 5.3 percent (2017: 5.1%, 2016: 5.0%[1]). On the face of it, the largest economy in Southeast Asia is performing well, due to higher commodity prices and stronger global growth. Investment growth in 2017 rose to its highest rate in four years, led by public investment in infrastructure. Private consumption accounts for more than half of GDP and is reported to have recovered modestly, but signals are mixed in a country that struggles with poverty and rising unemployment. 

As a country with a low domestic tax base, Indonesia is highly dependent on foreign investments in order to finance its ambitious infrastructure targets as outlined in detail in the Nawa Cita. (The Asian Development Bank estimates that the modernization of Indonesia’s infrastructure will cost around US $400 billion, which is roughly half of Indonesia’s GDP). In recent years the administration has worked to improve regulatory conditions for foreign investors, e.g. by launching two economic packages during 2017 which accelerate licence issuance and create a one-stop shop for permits. The strategy seems to have paid off as FDI recorded the largest net inflow in more than seven years. Singapore is the top investor in Indonesia, followed by China and Japan. In February 2018 Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board reported that the EU remains the fourth-biggest foreign investor in Indonesia.[2]



For a country whose 260 million inhabitants are spread over an archipelago of 17,000 islands, further progress in decentralisation and the development of infrastructure are the most pressing issues when it comes to economic growth. The Governance and Fiscal Balance Law of 1999 provided greater political and economic power to local governments, especially the 314 districts of Indonesia, in order to prevent them from seceding. Today over half of public expenditure is undertaken at the subnational level. Ideally decentralization enables local leaders to find local solutions to local problems, but according to the World Bank Indonesia still has a long way to go when it comes to granting citizens access to local services.[3]

Widodo’s economic diplomacy

Regarding foreign policy Indonesia’s president has a pragmatic attitude. Widodo has earned himself a reputation for what has become known as “economic diplomacy”, meaning that foreign policy is used as a vehicle to provide immediate economic gains to the country. The concept is best illustrated by looking at the frequency of Widodo’s meetings with Xi Jinping – five bilaterals during the first two years of his presidency alone – which coincided with a doubling of Chinese FDI[4]

Indonesia’s foreign policy has seen some major shifts since gaining its independence in 1945. During the Cold War and under Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president (1945-67), the country assumed a leading role and chose a policy of non-alignment between the two power blocs. Sukarno hosted the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung – the first such meeting of developing nations –  and co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961. In 1967 Indonesia was a co-founder of ASEAN, shifting to a more regional focus and, for the subsequent years, defining its international position primarily through ASEAN. This changed again with the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004 – 2014) who actively sought involvement in international initiatives and coined the slogan of “a million friends and zero enemies” in his inaugural speech. 

During his presidency Indonesia became a G-20 member, established the annual Bali Democracy Forum (2008) and formed partnerships with China (2005, strategic), the US (2010, comprehensive) and a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU which entered into force in May 2014. His Foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, sketched the following “Stages and Priorities of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy, 2005 – 2025”: 

2005 – 2009

Strengthen and expand national identity as a democratic country in international society

2010 – 2014

The recovery of Indonesia’s important role as a democratic country which is marked by the success of diplomacy in international forums as a means to safeguard national security, territorial integrity, and the protection of natural resources

2015 – 2019

Increase the role of Indonesia as a leader and contribution in international cooperation

2020 - 2024

The positioning of Indonesia as an independent nation in the global community

-       Create market access

-       Position Indonesia in the right place in international rivalry

-       Increase foreign investment 

Source: Acharya, Amitav (2014): Indonesia Matters. Asia’s Emerging Democratic Power. 

The Global Maritime Axis 

Next to economic considerations it is security which plays an increasingly important role in Widodo’s foreign relations outlook. His signature foreign policy vision is to transform Indonesia into a “global maritime axis” (poros maritime dunia) by means of a comprehensive strategy which combines economic/domestic as well as security/foreign policy aspects. The country is located between two oceans – the Indian and the Pacific Ocean – and between two continents, Asia and Australia, resting on the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping routes. Widodo is not the country’s first president to have this vision, but the comprehensiveness of his approach together with the emphasis with which it is pursued, is singular. Apart from a security dimension the maritime strategy has, again, pronounced domestic goals: the modernization of Indonesia’s ports in order to enhance inter-island connectivity. Many of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands are still unconnected, especially in the outer islands of Eastern Indonesia.

In the light of Southeast Asia’s changed security environment, Widodo’s maritime strategy builds on his predecessor Yudhoyono’s Navy Blueprint 2013, which aims to augment Indonesia’s naval capacity by turning it into a 274-ship force including 12 submarines and three independent fleets operating across the country by 2024. The 2015 Indonesia Defence White Paper distinguishes between non-traditional (terrorism, transnational crime, climate change, natural disasters, epidemics) and traditional security aspects, i.e. the territorial disputes over the South and East China Sea and the DPRK crisis, stating that “the development of the strategic environment shows increasingly escalated symptoms.”[5]Jakarta is concerned about the growing militarization in Southeast Asia in recent years, an area where no regional arms control mechanisms are in place.

It is noteworthy that Indonesia, the largest island-state of the world, has naval capacities weaker than those of much smaller powers in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Vietnam). Traditionally its armed forces were trained and equipped merely for defence purposes due to a perception which localized threat mostly from within the country’s borders and relied on US primacy as the basis for regional order. The US-Indonesian military relationship goes way back but the US’ commitment to the region has become disputable when one of the Trump administration’s first official acts was to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. During his first visit to Indonesia in January 2018 US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, made a point of emphasizing the relevance of maritime security and offered to assist the trilateral joint patrol between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in the South China Sea. 

Mattis arrived in Jakarta merely three days after the release of the Trump administration’s first National Defence Strategy which outlined the shift in the US’ defence policy with regard to a “networked security architecture” in the Indo-Pacific to which Indonesia is an important partner.[6]Yet the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as has been called for by the Trump administration is met with reservation in Jakarta. Its confrontational nature and united stand against China contradicts Indonesia’s traditional foreign relation principle of nonalignment. Despite its differences with China over the South China Sea, Jakarta has made it clear that it does not welcome any power projection in the matter. As if to underline this point Foreign Minister Retno visited Beijing shortly after the Mattis visit to meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Premier Li Keqiang.

Indonesia and ASEAN 

At the beginning of Widodo’s term, Indonesia’s official commitment to ASEAN and its aim of regional integration was believed to be changing. Rizal Sukma’s comment on the issue, which he made in 2014, was well noted by the global foreign relations community. The close foreign policy advisor of president Widodo, one of Indonesia’s leading strategic experts and today the country’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, demoted ASEAN to one policy cornerstone among many. His remark has since fuelled speculation about Indonesia’s disavowing ASEAN and the country’s interest in other regional forums like the Ocean Rim Association (IORA) or the subregional cooperation initiative IMT-GT (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand-Growth Triangle). 

At the same time Foreign minister Retno Marsudi has been busy rejecting this new narrative on numerous occasions especially in the course of last year, which marked ASEAN’s 50thanniversary. At a RSIS lecture in Singapore in February 2017, Marsudi made it a point to pick up Sukma’s phrase, emphasizing that ASEAN remained thecornerstone of Indonesia’s foreign policy. 

However, Jakarta’s engagement within the three pillars of the ASEAN community – political cooperation, economic, socio-cultural - appears to differ markedly. With regard to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) president Widodo has stated repeatedly that he would support regional integration measures only if they did not interfere with the country’s economic interests. In line with this statement Indonesia’s commitment to the AEC has been erratic, upholding protectionist barriers limiting trade and delaying the implementation of regional agreements. 

By way of contrast Jakarta’s role within the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) has been much more pronounced. Its taking the lead in mediating between the different parties involved in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute and urging them to conclude a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) illustrates Indonesia’s interest in shaping and contributing to issues of ASEAN security. It should be noted that this ambiguity towards ASEAN is not at all new or a unique feature of the Widodo administration. Fritz Heiduk of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), asserts a strong continuity in Indonesia’s attitude towards ASEAN across different administrations despite the common view that Indonesia is the motor of ASEAN: “Jakarta continued to be a difficult partner in the AEC, while at the same time exercising regional leadership in the APSC.”[7]


The SCS dispute remains the stumbling block in China’s relations towards ASEAN as well as its bilateral relations with Indonesia. Negotiations between China and ASEAN on the CoC were formally announced at the ASEAN Summit in November 2017 and in February Retno Marsudi, when visiting Beijing, announced that they were to begin soon, but substantive progress is yet to be seen.Jakarta’s official policy of not being a claimant state was contested lastly in 2016 when three maritime skirmishes occurred between China and Indonesia within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off its Natuna Islands, northwest of Borneo. The zone partly falls within the “nine dash line”, marking the area of the South China Sea that China claims as its own. 

Indonesia and China are strategic partners since 2005, but it should be noted that the normalization of Sino-Indonesian relations dates back less than twenty years: It was only after K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid was elected president in October 1999 that things started to improve. Throughout Suharto’s authoritarian rule relations were strained due to Jakarta’s claim that China was behind the failed coup attempt and mass killings of 30 September 1965. Parts of Indonesia’s Pribumi elite continues to regard China’s engagement in Indonesia with suspicion, arguing that Beijing’s investments were driven by an interest to control strategic locations in the country.[8]

China’s attempted influence in Indonesia is hardly debatable. It was in a speech in the Indonesian parliament in October 2013 that Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative which was then called the Maritime Silk Road. Beijing’s signature initiative coincides with Widodo’s political will to push the development of Indonesia’s infrastructure. Prominent examples would be the Northern Sulawesi Bitung Special Economic Zone (SEZ) – one of two SEZ in Indonesia - or the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail Project. The loan agreement to the latter was signed during Widodo’s visit to Beijing in May 2017. The project is aimed at cutting the travel time between the two cities in Western Java from about three hours by car to just 40 minutes. 

Jakarta is usually keen not to challenge Beijing, which has offered investments to the amount of US $63 billion. At the same time Indonesia is under a lot of pressure, domestically as well as within the Southeast Asian community, to stand its ground and live up to the role it assumed as an honest broker i.a. in the SCS dispute. Jakarta’s bold announcement on 14 July 2017, that it was renaming a part of the South China Sea as the “North Natuna Sea” can be seen against this background. Shortly thereafter Indonesia also announced a military build-up and the deployment of naval warships to the “North Natuna Sea”. 

The East Natuna gas field is assumed to possess up to 46 trillion cubic metre of gas which would make it the largest gas field in Asia. To date the situation remains unsolved: China expects Indonesia to cancel its decision while it is Indonesia’s official position that the name change was a domestic matter. Yet despite these tensions it is rather unlikely that Jakarta is going to jeopardise bilateral relations over territorial issues.  


At the beginning of 2018 Indonesian-Australian relations made news on a topic that has been off the radar for some time. A group of 50 Indonesians who were jailed in Australia for smuggling ‘boat people’ are seeking compensation, claiming that they were underage at the time of their imprisonment.[9]Indonesia is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, but the country currently hosts some 13,840 refugees from 49 different countries, with roughly half originating from Afghanistan.[10]Thousands of Rohingya come ashore in Aceh every year, intensifying Jakarta’s commitment in the Rohingya crisis. Australia, on the other hand, launched ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ after the election of the Abbott government in September 2013 and since November 2014, Canberra has limited its refugee intake from Indonesia to 450 places per year.[11]

The issue of the so-called ‘boat people’ is probably the most prominent but not the only one to cause a strain to the relationship of both countries which has been marked by a series of ups and downs in the past years. At the same time Indonesia and Australia are strategic partners, underpinning their relationship by a series of regular high-level meetings (annual leaders meeting, 2+2 meetings foreign relations, defence, trade) and dealing with territorial issues through the Lombok Treaty of 2006. Following the execution of two Australian citizens for drug trafficking in 2015 negotiations on an Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) paused, but were reactivated in 2016. The 11thround of negotiations took place in December 2017.

In its recent Foreign Policy White Paper, released in November 2017, Australia reiterated the importance of the relationship, placing it in the context of Australia’s Indo-Pacific partnerships.[12]This commitment as well as Australia’s recognition of Southeast Asia’s overall importance was further emphasized in the Sydney Declaration on 18 March 2018, at the end of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, the first-ever summit with ASEAN to take place in Australia. 

It can be taken as proof for the warming of ties between Indonesia and Australia that President Widodo, at a summit press conference, said he wanted Australia to become a full member of ASEAN. This move caught Australian officials by surprise who were quick to play the prospect down. Australia has been an active partner in the Southeast Asian community, as a dialogue partner of ASEAN since 1974 and as founding member of the East Asia Summit. That said the question of whether or not Australia should become a full member of ASEAN has gained momentum recently. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a special report on the topic in February, arguing that Canberra should aim for ASEAN membership by 2024, the year which marks the 50thanniversary of its being a dialogue partner.[13]


After years of sluggish progress EU-Indonesia relations are picking up speed. As the first ASEAN partner, Indonesia signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the EU, which entered into force in May 2014. Under the umbrella of the PCA cooperation is pursued in five areas: political dialogue and security/trade; investments; climate change and the environment; development; people-to-people. The first Joint Committee under the PCA took place in November 2016 in Brussels.

Negotiations for a FTA (EU-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, CEPA) were launched on 18 July 2016. The CEPA is to complement the PCA and will, once concluded, create a common market of 750 million people. Bilateral trade between the EU and Indonesia amounted to €25.1 billion in 2016 and the EU is the fourth biggest source of FDI to Indonesia. However, trade and investment levels are currently well below the volume that could be expected.[14]In February 2018 the EU completed the fourth round of negotiations which took place in Surakarta. Progress was reported on the chapters on food and plant health, technical barriers to trade, investment and services. The fifth round of negotiations will be held in Brussels in the second week of July.

An important pillar of EU-Indonesia relations is climate change. Indonesia is facing a severe emission problem due to the forest fires which have become an annual event during the dry season. Indonesia is home to 84% of all peatlands in Southeast Asia and it is the world’s top producer of palm oil. The effects of extensive deforestation during the past 20 years have thus been aggravated by those of land clearing in order to obtain enough farmland to produce palm oil. By burning peatlands, tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere, causing Indonesia to become the second or third biggest greenhouse emitter in the world and posing a severe risk to human health. 

Both the EU and Indonesia ratified the Paris Agreement in October 2016. Indonesia unconditionally pledged to cut carbon emissions by 29% by 2030 and offered an even more ambitious reduction target of 41% by 2030 if international support was forthcoming. In tackling Indonesia’s emission problems, president Widodo has acted with determination. In December 2016 he announced a move to ban industrial activity on Indonesia’s peatlands and established a peatland restoration agency. His government also is the first to investigate and take legal action against palm oil plantation companies.[15]

Indonesia also is one of the world’s major exporters of timber. In order to address the problem of illegal logging and deforestation the country has developed a timber legality certification system (SVLK). However, in both areas of environmental protection, implementation and enforcement challenges remain, due to insufficiencies of a decentralized governance system and persistent corruption.[16] On 4 April 2017 the European parliament adopted resolution 2016/2222 (INI) on palm oil and deforestation of rain forests in which it expresses concern over the constant high levels of deforestation in Indonesia, calling for a more sustainable palm oil production.[17]

Human Rights have come to be another bone of contention between the EU and Indonesia.[18]They will play a role in the upcoming elections, too. This already proved to be the case in the run-up to the gubernatorial election in April 2017, in what came to be known as the “Bela Islam” (“Defend Islam”) mobilisation of December 2016: the “212 Movement”, a coalition of various extremist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) mobilized up to 500,000 people in Jakarta’s centre, calling for the arrest of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for reasons of blasphemy. Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for insulting Islam. He is merely the most prominent case in a series of what HR groups believe to be at least 30 convictions of prisoners of conscience[19]- in a country whose constitution formally guarantees the free practice of religious belief to the six officially recognised religions. 

Other targets of conservative Muslim groups are the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community of Indonesia and women and girls who are increasingly facing discriminatory national and local regulations. According to Reporters Without Borders, religious groups also pose a threat to the right to inform, which is most evident but not limited to West Papua.[20]

After the election is before the election

The simultaneous regional elections on 27 June 2018, when Indonesians in 171 regions will elect 17 governors, 39 mayors and 115 regents, will be an important test for president Widodo before next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections. His party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), nominated him as its candidate in February this year. In April former General Prabowo Subianto announced that he will be a candidate again in 2019, thus challenging Widodo for the second time. Currently Widodo is leading in polls, backed by the seven parties with which he forms a coalition. Subianto, meanwhile, will most likely rely on the support of Islam-based political parties (the Prosperous Justice Party, KPS/the National Mandate Party, PAN) in order to form a coalition with his Gerindra party.

The schedule for the race has been set: During 4-10 August presidential and vice- presidential candidates need to be registered at the General Election Commission, with the campaign period to start on 23 September and end four days before the election on 17 April 2019. It will be the first time in Indonesian history that the legislative and the presidential election will be held on the same day. Presidential and vice-presidential candidates run as a fixed pair in Indonesia and it is widely assumed that Subianto will nominate Anies Basdewan as his running mate. The governor of Jakarta can be expected to make religion and ethnic appeals the guiding themes of his campaign, the same vehicles with which he won the gubernatorial election against Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama despite his never holding an elected office before. 


What if?

Being neither Chinese nor Christian puts president Widodo in a less tenuous position as “Ahok”. What’s more he has a strong record of economic reform to show for himself. While he has not managed to reach his ambitious growth target of 7%, other noticeable improvements such as access to cheap health care or regarding education will likely grant him the support of broad levels of the Indonesian electorate. And yet his victory is far from certain. In eight of Indonesia’s 34 provinces president Widodo’s approval rates remain below 50%, in the last presidential election he lost five of them.[21]Most importantly, his contender Subianto won in West Java, the province with the largest population. Widodo, who has proved to be a smart tactician, has not nominated his running mate yet. In an attempt to strengthen his political capital ahead of the election he reshuffled his cabinet for the third time in January this year. 

Religion will continue to play a decisive role in Indonesian politics. Whereas the military prevented Islamic organizations from engaging in politics during the New Order they are thriving under democratic conditions. In the past years Widodo has struggled to find the right balance in dealing with them. He banned Hizbut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), a hard-line Islamic group which supports the installation of a caliphate, while at the same time co-opting some influential Muslim groups. (Most importantly Nahdlatul Ulama, next to Muhammadiyah one of the two largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia). The recent wave of violence as shown in the Surabaya bombings of May, when suicide bombers carried out attacks on three Christian churches, will probably make it easier for the moderate voices of Islam in Indonesia to make themselves heard. Yet April 2019 is still a long way away. 

And there is another issue to take into account: Widodo’s contender, rather than representing religious Islam or the military, stands for the interests of the old yet still powerful Jakarta elites. For the consolidation of democracy, the last and most critical phase of the democratic transformation, it is crucial whether or not these elites support the democratic project in that they adjust their attitudes and behaviour. If Widodo loses, there is reason to believe that nationalism will regain strength and destabilize the young democracy. 

Indonesia matters to the EU in many ways. If negotiations for a new agreement are completed successfully it will be a major boost to the relationship. Over the coming months policymakers in Brussels will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate that Europe supports the Indonesian democratization process, be it at the Security Dialogue or the ASEM Summit in Brussels – if Indonesia shows up. 

[1]Asian Development Bank (April 2018): Investment, Strong Economic Management to Boost Indonesia’s Growth.

[3]The World Bank (December 2017): Indonesia Economic Quarterly. Decentralization that Delivers.

[4]Harding, Brian / Merchant, Stefanie (2016): Indonesia’s Inward Turn. The country’s focus on domestic issues is a loss for ASEAN and the world.

[8]Herlijanto, Johanes (10.02.2017): How the Indonesian Elite Regards Relations with China.

[14]European Union Trade and Investment with Indonesia (2017):

[16]Over the past five years Indonesia hasclimbed up the Corruption Perceptions Index by 5 points (2017: 37), possibly because of the work of its independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), yet this is still a low score, given that the scale ranges from 0 to 100 with 100 meaning corruption-free. Ever since its creation in 2002 the KPK has been facing a lot of opposition from politics and the police in Indonesia. Under the current administration it has to cope with severe budget cuts (26% in 2017). Transparency International (21.02.2018): Slow, Imperfect Progress Across Asia Pacific.

[18]In 2017 the European Parliament adopted two resolutions on the human rights situation in Indonesia: Resolution 2017/2506 (RSP) on 19 January 2017 and Resolution 2017/2724 (RSP) on 15 June 2017.

[19]Human Rights Watch (2018): World Report 2018: Indonesia.

[20]Reporters Without Borders (2018): Indonesia. President’s Broken Promises.