A Giant Muslim Success

Like Iraq, Indonesia is also a largely a Muslim nation, also beset by civil strife, Islamic terrorist bombings, and a poor economy. And its longtime dictator was recently ousted.

Perhaps then the election held on Monday in this large Southeast Asian archipelago might serve as a lesson for the election scheduled for Iraq in January, one that's in doubt because of ongoing violence.

With 155 million eligible voters, Indonesia directly chose its president for the first time on Monday, as well as electing local, regional, and national legislators. The voting was largely peaceful and, despite many complexities, conducted on one day (although official results are two weeks away).

Civic activism has taken root in Indonesia since the ouster of former dictator Suharto in 1998, despite attempts by Islamic political parties to gain power. Voters feel so independent in fact that it's likely the current president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, may have been defeated in this election, according to early estimates. The candidate expected to win, former Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is popular for his secular leadership and record on fighting terrorism.

Democracy in Iraq may not follow the same path, but Indonesia's example shows that free and fair voting can take place in a country despite poverty, strife, and Islamic radicalism. That's not to say Indonesia doesn't have a long way to go to reduce the political role of its military and honor many civil rights. But the people's hunger for more democracy, not less, was made clear in this election.

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