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“The night before the election, Metro TV aired a debate between the candidates. I watched only for a while, but I was not impressed.” This comment, from 26-year-old voter Cendera Rizky in South Tangerang earlier this month, appears to sum up the view of many Indonesians this year as the country conducts yet another round of local elections.

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WITH the political temperature reaching an unusually high level in several Asian countries in recent months, colours have become almost an obsession. Wear red, yellow or blue in Bangkok and you could find yourself in the middle of a brawl. Wear black outside the Perak state assembly building in Malaysia and you could be arrested.

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INDONESIA often gets a bad press. In fact, almost every visitor to the country can cite some example of corruption, mismanagement and (some say) plain laziness. Indeed, the local and international media sometimes seem to delight in highlighting Indonesia’s deficiencies.

Key Political Risks

The inability of the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to bridge the deep divisions between her populist government and its royalist opponents in the military and bureaucracy remains a major concern.

Prime Minister Yingluck has selected a competent economic team, but it is difficult for these technocrats to deliver on the new government's campaign promises without triggering inflation or hurting business. 

The government has also been unable to resolve the ongoing insurgency involving ethnic Malay Muslim rebels in the south.



  1. Attempts by the government to amend the constitution. The proposed rewrite is aimed removing legal measures initiated by the royalist generals who overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the current prime minister's elder brother, in 2006.
  2. Ballooning government debt as officials seek to finance government programmes aimed at subsidising rice prices in order to retain the support of farmers.
  3. The relationship between Prime Minister Yingluck and senior generals. Coups have been a common means of regime change in Thai history, and any attempt by the government to purge royalist elements in the top brass could trigger yet another. Thailand

About Me

My name is Dr Bruce Gale and I am a senior writer with the Singapore Straits Times. I studied at  LaTrobe University (BA Hons) in Melbourne and later at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Monash University (MA). My PhD thesis, which focussed on Malaysian political economy, was completed at the Malaysian National University (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) in 1987.

From 1988 to 2003 I was Singapore Regional Manager for the Hong Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC). 

I have written several books and articles on Southeast Asian affairs, including Political Risk and International Business: Case Studies in Southeast Asia (Pelanduk Publications, 2007). Books on language include Mastering Indonesian: a guide to reading Indonesian language newspapers (Pelanduk Publications, 2008)

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