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Vikram Nehru: How will Indonesia's next president bend the arc of history?

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A woman walks past a poster of the two presidential candidates in Jakarta on June 15.   © Reuters

Indonesia is at a crucial moment in its history. Stretching behind it are 16 years of a post-Suharto era that saw the country quit authoritarianism, cold-turkey style, and plunge headlong into democracy and decentralization. The last decade has been under outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who will reach his constitutionally mandated two-term limit in October. On July 9, he will hand the reins to one of two candidates standing in the country's presidential election.

     Will it be Prabowo Subianto, a hubristic ex-general once married to the daughter of Suharto, the authoritarian leader who was forced to resign in 1998? Or will it be Joko Widodo, known as "Jokowi," Jakarta's tireless, self-effacing governor? Both have the capacity to bend Indonesia's arc of history -- but each in a different direction. Indonesians will not merely be choosing between two very different leaders. They will be choosing between two very different futures.

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