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The largest Muslim population in the world and the fourth most populous nation overall. The biggest archipelago. The third-biggest democracy. A trillion dollar economy.
For a country so massive, Indonesia tends to fly under the radar partly because, with a bloody history from colonialism to dictatorship, it has focused on issues at home across its 17,000-plus islands. It has tended to adopt a low-key foreign policy. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
A major commodity producer that sits astride both the strategic South China Sea and the Malacca Strait, Indonesia’s economic and political stability has ramifications for Asia and beyond. While it has largely avoided significant religious strife in recent decades, there are pressures from harder-line Islamic groups to make the country less secular. Growth is short of targets. And nationalism is on the rise, leading to protectionist policies for local industries.
Today’s presidential election sees Joko Widodo again face off with former general Prabowo Subianto, who served under late dictator Suharto. This time, though, Widodo is not the political outsider – he’s president and campaigning on a record that’s a bit mixed when it comes to jobs and economic reform.
The count from unofficial tallies has Widodo – known popularly as Jokowi – leading. The challenge if he secures a second term is to better translate Indonesia’s potential into action. That would have an effect well beyond its borders.
How do I keep up with the Indonesian election?
1) Click here for our real-time blog 2) Follow our team on Twitter: Karlis Salna, Arys Aditya and Thomas Kutty Abraham 3) Read this explainer on the key economic challenges for whoever wins
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--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter and Charles Penty.
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