Sample Essay on Recent Elections in Indonesia: Their Implications and Impact

Introduction: The Political History and Background of Indonesia

Indonesia was relieved of the authoritarian regime of President Suharto by the Asian economic crisis that occurred towards the end of the nineties. The dislodgment of the regime was as a result of public protests and demonstrations all over the country. Indonesia held its first free elections in nineteen ninety-nine.

The elections have since then been done successfully. They have been seen as being comparatively fair and free of rigging[1]. Moreover, a number of parties have mushroomed and entered the political scene. The number of voters that turn out to cast the ballot is very large, according to international standards.

The government structure of Indonesia comprises three levels: the district level, the provincial level, and national level. Assemblies are elected at each level, under the leadership of a district leader, governor, and president respectively. The elections are done after every five years.

The 2014 Elections

The 2014 elections was the third time Indonesian civilians elected their president, since the end of Suharto’s authoritarian regime. The president elect was Joko Widodo, alternatively known as “Jokowi.” The hopes of the renewal of the reform process were raised by the election of the Jokowi, a successful self-made businessman who rose from humble beginnings.

Jokowi’s nomination for the presidential candidature by his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDI-P, did not happen smoothly. His competitor, former general Prabowo, whom Jokowi defeated very narrowly, disputed Jokowi’s nomination, declaring the results as not being aligned with the law. He sought to contest the results before the constitutional court of Indonesia. Prabowo, however, lacked evidence to back his claims that Jokowi bought votes and hence committed an election fraud.

Jokowi defeated Prabowo in the late 2014 very narrowly. The defeat can be examined against the background of some mistakes that happened during the campaigns. First, the nomination was a badly organized campaign that was not directed towards its popular candidate.  This had a massive effect on how Jokowi impacted on April’s parliamentary elections. The PDI-P ended up being the parliament’s strongest party, but with 6% less than the votes it needed to field its own presidential candidate. To overcome the limitation of the deficit, the party found itself having to form a coalition with other parties in order for its Jokowi to be a presidential candidate.

Jokowi’s lead fell from more than 20% to about 3% within a few months of the parliamentary elections. Jokowi’s popularity was halved within a few weeks, following Prabowo arguably unprofessional campaign in which he accused his opponent of being a communist, a Christian, and of Chinese decent. Other factors that contributed to Jokowi’s loss of popularity were his lack of clear agenda and self-confidence toward his opponent’s demands, and shifted support towards his opponents. Furthermore, Indonesians doubted Jokowi’s leadership, owing to his tame and inactive style.

Contrary to the convectional approach to campaigns, which are usually done by opposing agendas and political issues, the campaigns that preceded Indonesia’s 2014 elections focused on the polarization of the personas of the two competitors. On one side was Prabowo, a man from a rich business family and a former general with close ties to Suharto’s regime. He based his campaigns on his views that the democratic reforms were a mess and the country should be reverted to the stronger state it was before the democratic reforms. On the other side, Jokowi was a man from humble beginnings who achieved success through self made business. He joined the political scene after Suharto’s regime fell, and for that reason he was seen as embodying political ‘cleanliness” and closeness to the people.

On account of the sharp polarization between the two candidates, the results of the elections came to represent a u-turn from the tradition of Indonesian politic-a focus on nepotism, collusion and corruption. Considering the fact that it is Jokowi who won, and also that the election campaigns had little substance in terms of the factors that are usually of concern to the running of the country, the outcome of the elections was regarded as the fueling of the reform process in Indonesia.

Implications on Indonesia’s Politics and Society

            As to where Jokowi’s political stand lies, the campaigns fail to provide insight. Inferring from his public communications during the campaigns, Jokowi’s political agenda seems to be closely similar to those of the founder of the Republic on Indonesia, Sukarno. Sukarno emphasized national cohesion, and was in favor of economic ideas and openly criticized the liberal individualism of the west.

Like Sukarno, Jokowi is of the view that the development of the nation is achieved through the efforts of the people to a greater extent than the efforts of the state, out of which some political goals can be derived: to make Indonesia more dependent in internal investment than foreign investment; to expand Indonesia’s military in terms of both personnel and hardware; and to incorporate and emphasize Indonesian values, morals and religion in the country’s education.

Jokowi’s and Sukarno’s avenues of achieving the objectives are, however, divergent. Rather than advocate for social transformations, Jokowi emphasizes mental revolution. He is of the view that public servants should be freed of corruption, that the decision to employ someone should be based on the person’s expertise and merit rather than any form of affiliation. All these are contained in his nine-point plan.

Implications of the Election to Indonesia

A smart and healthy Indonesia was the recurrent theme in the election campaigns of Jokowi. The theme was popular among Indonesians. A smart Indonesia refers to the availability of education in Indonesia. Its aim is to provide access to education in the country by providing free education for all Indonesian children. It intends to achieve this by increasing the education budget. Islamic boarding schools were to have their state funding increased, the standards of teacher training were to be raised, and the teachers’ salaries were to be to be increased. Similarly, a healthy Indonesia sought to make universal healthcare accessible to all Indonesians. This was to be done by upgrading hospitals to modern standards, expanding community health centers, and providing some health services free.

The accomplishment of both policies depends on whether there are enough funds to implement them. The additional expenditures were to be funded by reducing the high amounts of subsidy on fuel. The subsidies formed a quarter of the budget of the state. Another approach was to boost the economy whose rate of growth was at its slowest for the last half a decade. Jokowi planned to bolster the manufacturing center, upgrade the infrastructure to modern standards, and remove all unnecessary excessive bureaucracy. To achieve these, he needed to secure support in parliament. In parliament, the coalition that is under the leadership of Prabowo, Jokowi’s main election opponent, holds 60% of the seats. There have been attempts to logroll other parties.

The bargaining for prominent cabinet and bureaucracy post was likely to test his earlier commitment to non-transactional politics. Jokowi found himself in a position where he had to be accommodating to the demands of his potential partners in a new coalition.

Another factor that is likely to affect Jokowi’s presidency is his relationship with the leadership of his party. Jokowi has not had much influence in the party. He had traditionally not been very interested in party politics during his mayor-ship of Solo and his governorship of Jakarta. He had also been detached from the power centre of the party. Thus, his shooting up the ranks of the party has made him envied. His future navigation will depend on his skills of securing support.

Jokowi’s Foreign Policies, Implications on International Relations

The election of Jokowi has meant the adoption of his foreign policies by the country. As it stands, Jokowi’s experience in foreign affairs is very limited; there was no influence of international politics on his election either. Not much is known as regards his stand on the big foreign policy matters like international relation with politically and economical influential countries like China and the United states. In a television interview, he could not define what role Indonesia had the disputes for territories in the South China Sea. Jokowi has however clarified that is preferred approach to the resolution of international disputes diplomatic and negotiation means.

During their election campaigns, both candidates, Jokowi and Prabowo, endorsed protectionism; it has made foreign investors worried and reluctant.  To a certain extent, such concerns seem justified. Jokowi intended protect Indonesia’s natural resources, the banking sector and the manufacturing sector from foreign competition. The move could have an effect on certain aspects of global governance, where the Indonesia under Jokowi’s leadership will be expected to cooperate less than it did earlier.

Jokowi has security and defense taken care of. Having had a poor beginning and being a self-made business man, Jokowi has no military background at all. He has however installed military hardliners as his defense and security advisors. The budget for Indonesia’s military has been raised. Jokowi announced his intentions to increase the budget for the military to 1.5% of the country’s gross domestic product, the purpose for which is the acquisition of drones to heighten surveillance of unlawful fishing and logging activities, and to pay for a national security council that was to be established.

Effects of the Elections on the Economy of Indonesia

The government under Jokowi, just like any new government, is going to have to face to economic situation it has inherited from the previous government. It is going to have to should the weight of the expectations to deliver.

Indonesia had a disappointing quarter GDP figure in March, following which its government revised its gross domestic product forecast down from six percent to five point five percent, verses its 2013 figure[2].

After plummeting by twenty percent in the year 2013, the Indonesian currency has appreciated by five percent. 2013’s drastic fall in the Indonesian rupiah made Indonesia more competitive, raising its ranking up twelve places for the period 2013 to 2014. Inflation improved for a few months after the elections and a rise in exports helped create a surplus in the trade balance. However, the gross domestic product of the country continues to depend on consumption as a major contributing factor.

As of June, 2014, direct foreign investment had financed about fifty percent of the country’s deficit, leaving the country vulnerable to the sentiments of the financial markets. As a result, the challenge to the government that took over power during the 2014 elections is to take care of the problems that contributed to the Indonesia’s account deficit.

`           One of the bigger problems that weigh appreciably on Indonesia’s current account balance is the oil trade balance[3]. There has been a deficit in the oil trade balance since June 2012. Also, for the past the past ten years, the volumes of crude oil being produced has been on the decline on a daily basis. On the other hand, the local consumption of oil has gone up. Hence, due to the need to satisfy the rising demand, the amount of oil imports has continued to rise. Despite the shortage, Jokowi has plans of cutting the subsidies on oil to fund other projects.

From the performance of the market, investors had been in favor of Jokowi’s bid for the presidential seat. Having started and run successful businesses from a humble beginning, Jokowi was perceived as having the potential to transform the country.

Just because of Jokowi’s bid for the presidency, Indonesia’s equity market had risen to sixteen point four percent, doing remarkably better than the indices of other countries in the area[4]. The Jokowi euphoria had kindled the market rally since February 2014.  The markets went further in Indonesia’s favor when Jokowi’s presidential candidacy was announced. It would have been a possibility that Indonesia was benefiting Thailand’s political uncertainty. In spite of the pricey evaluation of the short term macroeconomic issues, foreign investors chose to focus on Indonesia’s politics, favoring Jokowi as the one with the highest likelihood of winning. Foreign equity flow remained positive since the year 2014 began. The trend went on until the 23rd of May. In June 2013 the net sellers were foreign investors. The foreign investors sold eighteen trillion rupiah at that time.

In early 2014, the financial, property, construction, and mining were performing well. In fact, in the expectation that it will benefit from a modernization of the infrastructure on which the next leader would concentrate, the construction sector rose to almost forty percent. Also, despite the decline in growth in china, mining stocks, excluding coal, also did very well. They rose to within the proximity of forty percent, owing to the structural change that followed the ban on the exportation of raw minerals. At the same time, the financial sector became the index heavy weight, benefiting massively from it.

Implications of the Elections the Asian Pacific Region

The economy of Indonesia has been performing well since 2001, experiencing an average growth of higher than the global average. What is more is that this has happened in spite of the effects of the global financial crises. In fact, Indonesia is forecast to rank among the top seven largest economies by 2030.

One of president Jokowi’s policies was to expand the country’s military. Indonesia spends on its military a percentage of its GDP lower than what its neighbors spend. Owing to its rapid economic growth, the country’s military is expected to expand to a level high enough for the country to exert appreciable influence on the region.

Indonesia’s 2010 Strategic Defense Plan included the procurement of over 270 ships, ten fighter jet squadrons and some submarines by the year 2040[5]. This will be a giant leap to the country’s military presence on region’s seas. Unrealistic as it may seem, recent military procurements imply an orientation in that direction. The country has already purchased sixteen squadrons as well as placed orders for more military hardware, including air defense systems. Indonesia has planned to buy three thirteen submarines, three of which will be of the Chang Bogo Class, plus several boats to be used for both training and patrol[6].

Considering the United States and China’s fight for control over Asian pacific, a bolstered Indonesia’s military presence is likely to tip the balance. Recently, china claimed ownership of the of the Natuna waters, parts of the Riau Islands that belong to Indonesia. The implication is that Indonesia is most likely to side with the United States, alongside India, Japan and the Philippines among other countries in the region that are wary of China’s use of it military rise to claim territories in the region.

However, coupling Indonesia’s military expansion with its rapid economic growth, rather than just take military sides between the United States and China, the country’s most probable strategic disposition is to have an Indonesian foreign policy that is free and active. Putting into consideration its high economic and military potential, the country sees itself as worthy of an entitlement to a paramount role in the Asia Pacific region and the rest of the globe.


The fall of the              authoritarian regime of President Suharto marked the beginning of democracy in Indonesia, since when there have been free and fair elections. The adoption of democracy has seen the country grow economically by figures enviable to the rest of the world’s economies.

The most recent elections, actually the third free and fair elections, held in 2014, saw to the election of Jokowi, a man from humble beginnings, whose impact started to show even before his election. Based on mere speculation that he would win, some sectors on Indonesia’s economy started to attract investment and actually did well even before he won the seat. The elections have had economic and social impacts on the country.

To successfully implement the policies of a smart and healthy Indonesia, the president will have to take such measures as cutting down on the subsidy on oil. (A rise in the price of oil has caused riots and demonstrations in the country before.) Even more is that he will need to garner the support of other coalition parties as his does not have enough seats in parliament.

One of the president’s agenda is to expand the military. With the promising economic growth, the country’s military influence on the Asia Pacific is likely to grow and hence tip the balance of the struggle for the control of Asia Pacific between the United Stated and China.  Coupled with its economic growth, as well as being an Islamic country, Indonesia is most likely to be significantly influential not just in the Asian Pacific but also in the Middle East and the rest of the world           


Beng, LTC Aaron. “Submarine Procurement in Southeast.”

Moricz, Sara, and Fredrik Sjöholm. “The Effect of Elections on Economic Growth: Results from a Natural Experiment in Indonesia.” (2014).

Schreer, Benjamin. “Moving Beyond Ambitions.” Indonesia’s Military Modernisation (2013): 16-17.

Siregar, Reza, and Monica Wihardja. “Fragile Balance of Payment in Indonesia in the Midst of

Recent Global Economic Uncertainties.” (2013).

Timur, Fitri Bintang, and Priamarizki Adhi. “Indonesia’s presidential campaign: the economic

agenda.” (2014).

Törnquist, Olle. “Stagnation or Transformation in Indonesia?”


[1] Olle, Törnquist. “Stagnation or Transformation in Indonesia?”


[2] Fitri, Timur, Bintang, and Priamarizki Adhi. “Indonesia’s presidential campaign: the economic

agenda.” (2014).


[3] Reza, Siregar, and Monica Wihardja. “Fragile Balance of Payment in Indonesia in the Midst of Recent Global Economic Uncertainties.” (2013).



[4]Sara, Moricz, and Fredrik Sjöholm. “The Effect of Elections on Economic Growth: Results from

a Natural Experiment in Indonesia.” (2014).


[5] Benjamin, Schreer. “Moving Beyond Ambitions.” Indonesia’s Military Modernisation (2013): 16-17.


[6]LTC Aaron, Beng. “Submarine Procurement in Southeast.”, 56.