15 Seton Hall J. Dipl. & Int'l Rel. 95 (2014)
Is Indonesia's Democratization a Road Map for the Arab Spring

handle is hein.journals/whith15 and id is 93 raw text is: Is Indonesia's Democratization a Road Map
for the Arab Spring?
by Dr. Paul J. Carnegie
Over the last three years, the Indonesian model has become an increasingly
repeated mantra in media and policy circles.1 It seems to hold the promise of a road
map for the nascent transitions taking place in the Arab world given the obstensible
resonance the two situations have with one another. Simply stated, Indonesia is the
most populous Muslim country on the planet and in the decade since the downfall
of Suharto, it has successfully-if not without difficulty-transitioned from
authoritarian rule to functioning democracy. At the same time, initial concerns over
Islamist ascendancy    have proved    largely  unfounded. In    fact, Indonesia
accommodates a diversity of Islamic political expression within the framework of
democratic electoral politics which helps to explain the recent interest. In regards to
its parallels with the Arab Spring, what lessons can be drawn from Indonesia's
democratic transformation?
Scholars and academics must proceed with caution before holding up the
Indonesian model as a general panacea. Several stark differences between the
Indonesian transition and the events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa
(MENA) exist and merit examination. The varying legacies of the past certainly
make any democratic rearrangement vis-a-vis political power a complicated affair.
Success in the MENA region will depend in large part on translating a momentum
for change into representational capacity with the ability to yield meaningful reform
over time. As such, the Indonesian modelmight be most useful in terms of the insight
it can provide into the major hurdles these post-authoritarian states will face along
their very uncertain path to democracy.
BACKGROUND ON ISLAMIC POLITICAL PARTIES IN INDONESIA
Indonesia's history, geography, and demographic make-up have led to a plurality
of Islamic expression across the archipelago. One need only look at the size of
Indonesia's two major socio-religious organizations to appreciate the influence of
Islam in daily life. The traditionalist Sunni Nahdlatul Ulama (NU-Awakening of
Ulama) boasts about 30 to 35 million members while the reformist Muhammadyah
Dr. Paul J. Carnegie is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the Institute of Asian Studies,
Universiti Brunei Darussalam. He researches democratic transitions with a focus on Indonesia,
Southeast Asia, and the MENA region. His work focuses on the complex role both political action
and institutions play in post authoritarian settings. He is the author of The Road from
Authoritarianism to Democraization in Indonesia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and taught previously in
Australia, Egypt and the U.A.E.
95
Seton Hall Journal of Diplomag and International Relations

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