Read: The world’s most complicated single-day election is a feat of democracy
Here are some takeaways from elections in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country:
The new normal
As president, Jokowi has demonstrated a tendency to co-opt criticism rather than to confront it, to move to wherever he perceives the center to be rather than put forward his own vision. The most important example of this is the affair that led to the imprisonment of his former ally, the popular Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent known simply as “Ahok.”
After a deceptively edited video of Ahok referring to the Koran spread on social media, the governor was charged with violating Indonesia’s controversial blasphemy laws, and Muslim groups took to the streets to demand his imprisonment. Ahok lost his reelection bid, then his court case, and spent nearly two years behind bars. Rather than rush to defend an ally—a member of an ethnic and a religious minority group—against a religious insurgency with extremist elements, Jokowi met the insurgents halfway. His vice-presidential pick is more moderate than Indonesia’s militant Islamist groups, but was influential in getting Ahok imprisoned. Islamic identity politics seem to be here to stay.
Reburying the past
When Jokowi was elected in 2014, many human-rights activists hoped that he would finally address the most heinous crimes committed under the command of General Suharto, Indonesia’s dictator until 1998. Chief among them was the massacre of up to 1 million leftists and accused leftists from 1965 to 1966. The CIA called that event “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”—though U.S. government officials were deeply implicated in the slaughter themselves. Tens of millions of survivors or family members have long awaited some kind of justice.
But when he came under fire from the right, and from the military, Jokowi backed off here, too. After groups such as the Muslim Cyber Army spread memes accusing the president of being a secret communist, and violent mobs attacked a conference on the memory of the 1965–66 murders, Jokowi went silent.
“When it comes to confronting the past, of course [Jokowi] has been disappointing,” Ratna Saptari, an Indonesian anthropologist who helped put together an international panel of judges who concluded that the 1960s violence constituted crimes against humanity, told me. Their final report was rejected by Jokowi’s government. “It’s been rather difficult for him, because the past is still with us, and is still used as a weapon, even against him.”
Read: Indonesia’s rights struggle: Deciding which candidate is the ‘lesser evil’
Prabowo has faced sweeping allegations of personally committing a wide range of crimes against humanity during the later years of the U.S.-backed 1967–1998 Suharto dictatorship, but Jokowi was careful not to bring that up in the campaign. He himself brought top brass from the Suharto era into his administration, and relies on the support of Indonesia’s powerful military.