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Why Indonesia Succeeded and Egypt Failed

Tue, June 23, 2:00 to 3:55pm, North Building, Floor: 5th Floor, N501


In developing a sustainable political model to stabilize Egypt following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, should we not consider Indonesia as a model for democratic transition in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, Muslim-majority country? There are similarities between Egypt's democratic transition and Indonesia's reformasi, which led over a decade ago to what has evolved into one of the developing world's most open political and economic systems. Particularly critical questions to address are: how to embark upon a policy of decentralisation; the type of Constitution to craft that will enshrine democratic changes; how to balance an expected rise in support for Islamists; and finding a role for a military that had supported the authoritarian regime. Events in the Arab world’s most populous country, has spawned a catalogue of comparisons, from the ouster of Iran's shah, which led to an Islamic takeover, to Turkey's delicate balance between secular and Islamic political forces. Yet, the comparison to Indonesia, the most populous majority-Muslim nation, should be at the forefront of our thinking. The uprisings that targeted Suharto and Mubarak (both having had long military careers and presiding over three decades of authoritarian rule with the backing of a powerful army) were driven by youthful populations frustrated in part by corruption and a dysfunctional economy dominated by crony capitalism. The key puzzle for this paper is: Why could Indonesia move quickly to a democratic system while Egypt could not?