Tue, 30 Dec 2003

Message from the Editor

As has been the tradition for quite some time, The Jakarta Post is dedicating special sections of our newspaper in the last two days of 2003, to an outlook for the coming year.

There are several ways of foreseeing the future without falling into the trap of mere prediction. One of them is to review and analyze the past, looking for overriding patterns that could help people to figure out what will happen next. We have been doing just that for the last few days; looking into past performances in different aspects of Indonesia, be it in national politics, economy, social environment, or other matters. We have also included aspects of the regional and international environment that have contributed to what Indonesia is today.

Another tool is the national agenda, that is, what the nation has agreed upon to do next year. Our country has decided on several agendas for 2004 -- in politics, the economy, social development and others -- to move the country forward. Using past performances as a guide, one could scrutinize this agenda -- this list of "wishes" -- and figure out different probable outcomes.

This time around, to foresee the year 2004, the Post finds it very hard to use past performances as a guide. The year 2004 will be a unique, unprecedented and highly politicized year for Indonesia.

In April 2004, a new electoral system will determine the distribution of seats for members of the legislature at three different levels throughout Indonesia. At the same time, Indonesians will cast their votes to elect members of the newly created second chamber of parliament, the Dewan Perwakilan Daerah. The system, rules and regulations of the general election will not be similar to previous ones, and will be much more complicated.

Next will come the two-stage presidential election that for the first time in the history of the Republic will be direct. The first stage is scheduled to take place in July 2004. If no candidate gains a simple majority of the total of votes -- which is highly improbable -- a second stage will be held in September 2004.

In short, the national agenda will be dominated by a seven- month-long highly politicized period, starting from the pre- election campaigns in March through until the second presidential election in September. This will be a totally new political experience for Indonesia, and a very exhausting one as well.

Nobody can foresee whether the final results will move Indonesia forward in its intended process of democratization, in its fumbling efforts for political reform, in its path toward an orderly economic environment, or in the many other aspects of becoming a new Indonesia.

Instead, the Post has invited a group of analysts and columnists to enlighten our readers on the daunting task of organizing and implementing the elections; while maintaining the integrity of the whole process, as well as the country's stability and sound economic conditions. Today's edition will look into the agenda and ramifications of the national elections, while tomorrow's edition will focus on the country's economic outlook.

This is not an attempt to predict the future. Rather, it is an endeavor to help readers to look into the relevant issues and figure out the overriding patterns.