Here Thar Be Monsters!

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Pins And Needles

The line from the great Bob Dylan ballad, Lilly, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, goes, "anyone with anysense had already left town," and that's where things stand in the Indonesian presidential election on this strangely silent night just hours before the polls open.

For those unfamiliar with the country, DKI Jakarta is an actual province of Indonesia, unlike Washington, D.C., which is a bastard child of Maryland and Virginia.  The city has a mayor and a governor, and is the home base of the president, which makes for fun budget meetings.  This little fact will come in to play in a moment, so keep it aside.

For now, let's meet the cast of characters:

In one corner, we have Prabowo, a former general and son-in-law of Suharto, who was dismissed from the army for his role in kidnapping and torturing a number of pro-democracy activists in 1998, during the fall of his daddy-in-law.  He swears he didn't kill anyone, but several of those activists have never been seen again.  Prabowo spent a decade in exile in Jordan, was refused entry to the US to see his son's graduation, and is widely suspected of having a role in the Timor L'Este massacre and the Bali bombing.

In the other corner is a populist reformer called Jokowi.  This guy was governor of Yogyakarta, then governor of Jakarta and is credited with cleaning up graft and corruption, and stream-lining governments where he has been in charge.  His oratory skills are lacking and he has, in classic political fashion, promised the Moon if elected, but he is known as a man of the people and has often been found with sleeves rolled up down among the people.

And this, as they say, is the choice.  Some background:

First, the election laws were changed a couple of years ago to say that only parties or coalitions that had achieved 20% of the parliamentary vote several months before could field a candidate for president.  Next, the law was recently changed to allow winner take all, rather than having a simple majority.  Finally, only a Muslim is allowed to be president, despite the fact that the Constitution recognizes five religions equally and there is a substantial and growing minority of the other four.

The net result is that we now have the classic left/right horse race that the PTB so enjoy, rather than true democracy.  The need for a run-off has been elminated, making it far easier to steal the election (a time-honored tradition here), and Jokowi's Chinese Christian Vice Governor in both Yogyakarta and late in Jakarta could not be on the same ticket because of his religion.  He is, however, now the first minority governor of Jakarta, which is no small feat.

The reason so many people have left/are leaving is that Prabowo has openly said that if he is not elected, he will burn the country down, if elected he will roll back the Constitution to the 1948 pre-amended version that allowed Suharto to take hold for 30 yeats, and that he doesn't think much of all this Western influence around here, though he sent his son to attend college in the States.  According to his statements, he believes that spending ten billion rupiah alone means he deserves the post, regardless of whether anyone wants him there or not.

So, as we mentioned at the outset, anyone with any sense has already left town.  Folks here are widely anticipating riots if the election doesn't go one way, and a rather dark future for Indonesia if it does go another.  The value of the rupiah has fallen 20% since the beginning of the year.  Foreign investment has beaten a path to the exit.  And local investors have been sitting on their wallets and shopping for real estate in Australia for the past three months.  It appears that not everyone is feeling confident passed today.

Oh, did we mention that Probowo's own brother, a Christian convert, has been speaking out against him and has also stated that he will leave the country if his brother is elected.

Like Janus, we sit here with one face in the future and one in the past, wondering if Indonesia will continue the reforms of the past 15 years, or throw it all out and start from square one.  It would seem that the wildly prosperous new middle class would chose to move forward, but it appears that there is still a strong backlash against just leaving people alone and letting them get about with their lives.  In short, it is a microcosm of the forces at war in the world at large.

One the one hand are the forces of fascism and iron-fisted government, and on the other are those of laissez-faire and freedom to choose one's own path in life.  It would seem that World War III will be a continuation of World War II, which itself was the direct result of World War I.  Perhaps future historians will call this period the Second Hundred Years' War.  Certainly, the Middle East mess, particularly Iraq, is the result of T. E. Lawrence's meddling at the behest of his masters in the West during WW1, and the alignment of parties worldwide is seemingly following those of WW2.  The one hacke in der sacke is the rising affluence of Asia in this sequel.

Indeed, this whole mess sounds like a PTB film franchise with everyone eagerly awaiting the explosive conclusion of the trilogy of films in this particular story arch.

One thing we can say for certain is that the internet around here has been a conplete mess for the past 24 hours, leading one to assume that someone is trying to control the flow of information to and from the outside.  We may bave to crank up TOR just to publish this installment of the Far Side saga.

In any event the results of our election here bear watching even by those with no obvious iron in the fire.  Indonesia has become a powerful force in regional events, and a growing one worldwide.  It makes for a fine canary in the coal mine for those seeking a taste of things to come.  As for us, we are firmly planted and in it for the full ride.  We suggest the proper reaction at this point is malaise-faire.

One need only look closely at the national emblem of Indonesia back at the top.  You may recognize the phoenix, commonly used by countries that are franchises of the PTB.  Further, notice the logo at his feet, which translated from Sanskrit means, "Out of many one," or e pluribus unam.  We further draw your attention to the red and white stripes of the flag, which symbolizes ownership by the British East India Company (look it up...).  That's what we're up again around here.

Perhaps we will take a further clue from Dylan's classic ballad and, "move into the corner, face-down like the Jack of Hearts."

And the winner is...