By Anwar Ibrahim
(Ibrahim is currently an opposition leader in Malaysia and the former Deputy Prime Minister)
The changes taking place in Indonesia today are among the most remarkable developments in the Muslim world. The country’s transition from authoritarianism has proved that as a democracy, Indonesia can be culturally vibrant and economically prosperous.
Since winning the presidency in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has managed to keep the nation afloat, even during the current global recession. However, significant challenges lie ahead. Poverty remains pervasive in Indonesia, and the government must press onward with improvements to the country’s ailing infrastructure. Businesses are confronted with a bewildering array of regulations, and the country pays a heavy price in corruption and bribery.
The coming presidential election promises to be good to Yudhoyono, 59, thanks in no small measure to his having for the most part delivered on his promises. The history of Indonesia’s democratic journey may not be that long, but it has thus far shown that the country’s people will not re-elect a President who falls short of expectations.
The time is right for Indonesia, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to assume a more prominent position in Asia and throughout the Muslim world. In response to President Obama’s warm overtures to Muslim countries for a new phase in relations with the U.S., Yudhoyono can take the lead and chart a new course for the region.