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Whoever the winner, Indonesia's new leader must let districts rule

In late 2011, I found myself hanging over the edge of a cargo ship off the coast of the eastern Indonesian island of Liran, helping to haul an elderly woman aboard. Wobbling about on the deck of a small fishing boat beneath her was her daughter, pushing her up towards me. "Careful," yelled the daughter, "she's got a bad leg!" After some tugging and shoving, the woman made it aboard, where she sat on deck for three days and three nights. It was the only way she could get to a hospital.

     Until very recently, this was the norm for residents of Liran, too tiny even to have a decent pier, as well for inhabitants of thousands more of Indonesia's smaller islands. Radical political decentralization has begun to change the picture, but progress may be threatened by the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the country's July 9 presidential election.

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