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Be careful what you wish for, Indonesia

One hundred days ago, on Oct. 20, Joko Widodo surfed into office as president of Indonesia on a tidal wave of expectations. Voters believed he would announce a cabinet of new faces -- technocrats rather than crusty, old-time politicians -- who would make life better for the poor. Political analysts expected that he would be stymied by the old-timers. No one predicted the actual course of events: that Widodo would bend the old guard to his purpose, then slash away at his popularity with sabers of his own making.     

     On reflection, last July's presidential election should have alerted us to just how difficult Widodo would find it to please the Indonesian electorate, which was faced with a stark choice. One candidate, Prabowo Subianto, was a strongman deeply embedded in the political aristocracy that has controlled Indonesia since independence. Forty-seven percent of Indonesians chose him precisely because they favored his paternalistic, decisive, top-down style of leadership, and because they knew he had the political connections to make things work.

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