Asia's Sleeping Giant Reckons With Its Future

Rosalind Mathieson
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Asia's Sleeping Giant Reckons With Its Future

Asia's Sleeping Giant Reckons With Its Future

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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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What to Watch:

Neither chamber is likely to muster the votes to override Trump's veto yesterday of a bipartisan measure Congress passed earlier this month demanding he withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Trump may be giving Beijing a new cudgel to use on American companies and striking another blow to the international rule of law, Shawn Donnan and Jenny Leonard report. Egyptians will vote in a national referendum next month on an amendment to the constitution passed yesterday by lawmakers that would extend the presidential term to six years from four — and potentially allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to remain in office until 2030.

And finally … Foxconn founder Terry Gou entered Taiwan's presidential race with a flourish, saying he had been encouraged to run by the Chinese sea goddess Mazu. The billionaire's bid poses a challenge to incumbent Tsai Ing-wen, as a contest that stands to determine whether the island moves closer to China heats up. Guo, who will run with the opposition Kuomintang party, cited divine intervention there, too — saying the goddess told him to "come forward" and support peace across the Taiwan Strait.

 

--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter and Charles Penty.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Winfrey at mwinfrey@bloomberg.net, Caroline Alexander

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