Politics and democracy

Politics and democracy go hand in hand but each is wider on its own than when linked together. "Democracy" is to be found wherever individuals willingly agree to share responsibility for their corporate actions. This can be in a family, in a voluntary organisation, in a local authority, or in parliament and government. "Politics", in its common definition of banding together to achieve change, affects everything. Any group of people of like mind, drawn together in order to be more effective than each of them singly, is acting politically.

In the more accepted sense of the word "democracy" we are talking about parliamentary democracy, or "representative democracy", ie the involvement of the people in the running of their society via choices expressed through the ballot box. Equally, "politics" more commonly means the organisation of political parties, through which policies for a country are developed and by which candidates are presented at public elections.

Peaceful Change
The essence of good democracy and healthy politics is that they provide the means of achieving peaceful change. If citizens are denied the opportunity of expressing their opinion peacefully and effectively on the way they are governed they will sooner or later turn to other less peaceful means of bringing about change. There has been a healthy trend over the past decade away from totalitarian states and towards free elections. The collapse of the Soviet Empire and the undermining of one-party states in Africa has led to a burgeoning of democratic elections and of multi-party politics. We are also now seeing the same trend in the Middle East and also in South East Asia, where in the June 7th election in Indonesia 105 million people voted - making it the second largest democracy in the world after India.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former UN Secretary-General, in the policy statement Agenda for Peace, made the crucial point that democratic elections are a vital component in peace making and peace building. Essentially this is based on the concept that warring parties could be persuaded to put the issues involved in their conflict to the people who would thus be given the opportunity at the ballot box to cast judgement on the rival claims. Thus "ballots" took the place of "bullets".

The received truth is, therefore, that "democracy" is essential to making and keeping the peace, and that democracy requires free and fair elections. No problem with that statement, only that elections are never fully free and fair, and that, as a consequence, democracy is invariably flawed. The key question is, therefore, what are the electoral conditions necessary to make the truism valid?

The truth on the ground, since those heady days of the late 1980s, suggests that democracy has, alas, not always proved capable of resolving disputes. The determination to grasp territory and/or control by military means, and the apparent acceptance and subsequent legitimisation - however reluctantly - of conquest, is now threatening what was otherwise an accelerating acceptance of the self-evident benefits of democracy. The situation in the Balkans, in the Transcaucasus and in Angola is a sad testimony to the vulnerability of democracy faced with a relatively small minority of determined power seekers.

There is, however, no real alternative to representative democracy that is remotely acceptable to the peace loving and peace desiring majority. The question, therefore, is what kind of politics? and, how do we entrench the best politics? Politics is sometimes referred to as being a "dirty game". In reality there is no such thing as a dirty game - only dirty players.

Elections, if they are to maximise the potential of representative democracy, require five attributes:

"Equality": in theory democratic elections equalise the influence of each elector. The  President has had to register for this election in exactly the same way as an eighteen year old woman in the remotest village in his home province in Sulawesi. The ballot paper each was given was identical and they will have exactly the same influence on the result. The campaigning of the political parties must therefore address each elector on an equal basis. The existence of parties assists the voter to choose between competing sets of values.

"Pluralism" is a key mark of democracy; that is, there must be the potential of a transfer of power, and an acceptance that alternative parties to one's own have an equal right to exist, to promote their beliefs, and to assume office if it is the will of the people, demonstrated through the ballot box. Without political parties it is virtually impossible to identify an organised alternative body of opinion which the voter can compare with that currently in office.

"Consent" is given to the elected members of parliament by the electors to act on their behalf for a set period of time. This is important in that it enables a Government early in its life to take unpopular decisions which it believes to be in the interests of the people, in the belief that these decisions will, by the time of the following election, be seen to be right. Without parties able to determine a collective mind on issues - and to maintain solidarity in the face of criticism - it is unlikely that any unpopular decision, however important, would ever be taken, particularly where it affected a specific constituency. If the power to recall MPs were to exist this would similarly inhibit MPs from taking such decisions.

"Coherence" is important if the Government is to play its proper role in relation to the civil service, and if the legislature is to maintain an effective check on the Government. A party whose MPs subscribe to a common set of values is able to allocate responsibilities to its members so that they can concentrate on specific aspects of policy and administration. By doing so, and by working as a team, they will be more effective than if they are a single independent endeavouring to cover every issue on their own.

"Stability" is vital if rapid and debilitating changes of direction, and even too frequent elections, are to be avoided. The existence of a healthy political structure is a safeguard against instability. If there is a structure of well based parties - not necessarily a large number of them but enough to represent the major strands of political opinion - it is likely that they will be able to promote their views and to sustain their policies, whether in Government or Opposition, with sufficient support and strength to survive events which might otherwise undermine their ability to survive politically or electorally.

Political Parties
The key difference between a political party and any other kind of voluntary body is that a party contests elections. Any organisation that promotes candidates at an election, particularly in a co-ordinated way in a significant number of constituencies, can be regarded as a party. The electoral process requires parties of one kind or another. Even in Uganda, where politics is organised within "The Movement" and is ostensibly non-party, the political allegiances of competing candidates are usually - and increasingly - well known. Given that the scale and complexity of modern politics, particularly on a national basis, prevent the individual from acting directly on his or her behalf, democratic elections provide a process by which the elector can choose someone to "deputise" for himself or herself in parliament. The Russians, like the French, actually use the word "Deputy" for their members of parliament.

I strongly believe that, in the longer term, no democracy can survive unless its political parties base themselves on political philosophy. All other possible determinants are either not susceptible to changing the voter's mind and electoral choice by rational argument and persuasion, or are so capricious as to undermine the possibility of stability. My experiences in many parts of the world encourage me to believe that human beings are much more similar in their basic needs and desires than is sometimes admitted. Whatever their circumstances each individual man, woman and child needs food and shelter, personal security, and health care, and seeks love and friendship, education and the benefits of their cultural heritage.

Historically the methods of achieving these basics are grouped in only a handful of political philosophies. Traditionally, dating from the arrangement of parties in the revolutionary assembly in France, these are placed on a Left-Right spectrum - ranging from the far left and massive state control, provision and ownership, to the far right and complete free enterprise, competition and self-provision. Thus socialism is regarded as being on the left and conservatism on the right. There is, however, a different spectrum - "north-south" rather than "east-west" - which takes as its determinant the concentration of power versus the spreading of power. Those who stress this axis claim that a state monopoly and a private monopoly, ie the consequence of extreme left and extreme right policies, are very similar and are equally dangerous. Whichever is thought correct is a matter for individual choice, the important thing is to seek as clearly defined and distinctive a philosophical place as possible.

Unhealthy bases for political parties.
Three common determinants for parties effectively deny the possibility of a change of allegiance based on argument and persuasion:

Region: sometimes parties base themselves on a region, usually because the area in question contains a more or less distinct group of people. In Romania for instance there are parties based on the regions in which the German and Hungarian minorities live. Each of these minorities believe that by banding together in one party it has the power to protect itself. Alas, the opposite is true: the minority, by definition, can never be a majority and can never gain office. The possibility of political change is virtually denied. Even if an unlikely coalition of such parties were to be formed it could probably not achieve sufficient coherence to remain in office long;

Tribe: in some countries the party structure reflects tribal identities. One of the worst recent examples is probably Burundi where the Tutsis and the Hutus have their own parties. There is no possibility of political change; the majority will always be a majority, and a minority a minority, and this has lead to the sad violence and strife we have witnessed. The Burundi situation is not an argument against democracy but rather an argument for a healthier democracy.

Religion: the spectre of religious fundamentalism looms large today. Not only Muslim fundamentalism, as in Algeria and elsewhere, but also Hindu fundamentalism with the BJP in India, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Protestant fundamentalism in Northern Ireland. In every case the consequence is a party structure which is virtually set in stone and which attempts to deny the possibility of rational change. Freedom to pursue religious beliefs and to promote them is a crucial human right, which must be guaranteed by a political system, but political systems can only function if they are based on reason and rationality.

Two bases for parties lead to dangerous and capricious politics:

Leaders: the belief in the mystical powers of the strong leader have in history very often lead to disaster. There is no unknown or hidden truth that even the most gifted leader can discover that could not be better and more healthily based within an accepted political philosophy. The idea that there could be one charismatic leader able to work miracles on his or her own is deeply flawed and often leads to authoritarian rule. The strength and value of a good leader comes from the trust and co-operation he or she has with his or her followers. If a party is based on one individual it runs the risk of becoming disillusioned when the leader cannot deliver or when the leader is eventually perceived to have the same human fallibilities as everyone else.

Policies: this may seem an odd statement. Policies - the manifesto - are often regarded as a valid basis for the formation of a party. Unfortunately, policy - as opposed to philosophy - is ephemeral. The manifesto can only be a snapshot of the party's views on that day's political agenda. Events can make policy obsolete overnight. For instance, all that I wrote over many years on East-West relationships became out of date overnight with the advent of Gorbachev. Similarly manifesto pledges on policy with regard to South Africa became obsolete with De Klerk's February 1990 speech and the dismantling of apartheid. In a healthy party system policy does not appear out of thin air; it must be rooted in the basic beliefs of the party promoting it.

The only purpose of parties developing policy and campaigning is to persuade the electorate to support them. If the political parties are based on other than intellectual foundations there is no point in attempting to persuade the voters. Unless parties put forward genuine reasons of principle for changing party allegiance the whole democratic apparatus is in danger of being discredited.

Democracy in danger everywhere
The challenges to democracy that exist in Indonesia are the same challenges that face Western Europe and North America. Democracy is in grave danger in the developed world, where economic growth has traditionally provided the means to obscure the complex and deep problems that have to be tackled. Western politicians still try and bribe their electorates with promises of increased wealth, even though there is now little prospect of being able to deliver. Western politicians and western democracy in general currently appear unable to cope with the problems of decline. There are a few signs of hope: the European Union, for all its faults, is one of them. Here for the first time in history there is a democracy in which MPs are elected across more than one nation state, and in which MPs sit in political rather than in national groups. Perhaps there is a lesson here for other continents, particularly Africa with its often peculiar and arbitrary, colonially imposed, boundaries in seeking the progressive diminution of national sovereignty. Pan-Africanism may well be needed for democracy to thrive in Africa. Like the European Union, Africa well have to start with an existing regional organisation, such as ECOWAS in that unstable and conflict torn corner of West Africa.

"Peace" in its wider connotation, which our own countries also need to perceive, requires that crucial "consent" to be governed which in theory is the purpose of the electoral process. But unless there is an awareness of the minimum required quality of elections, rather than just the quantity, disillusion with democracy is inevitable. Certainly even a large parliamentary majority in an election where the competing parties are each based on different tribes, fighting to control a country whose artificial boundaries militate against any longterm unity, is unlikely to be able to command a lasting peace. I recall ruefully a conference in Washington DC in 1995 on democracy in Africa in which almost all of us participants were members of that travelling circus of electoral specialists who tend to descend on a new democracy and offer genuine and useful assistance. We discussed in an atmosphere of mutual warmth various examples of our "battle honours" and their beneficial outcome.

Eventually the Conference reached the final paper, presented by Professor Claude Ake of Port Harcourt University, Nigeria, an academic whose support for democracy in very difficult circumstances is beyond reproach. Claude presented a devastating argument that unless elections were built on the firm foundation of civil society, and involved non-ethnically based parties, then at best elections merely legitimised a dominant tribal elite, and, at worst, were themselves the instrument of conflict. Given the audience, the silence was palpable and he concluded with the shrewdest of observations: "Elections, specifically free and fair elections, are the effect rather than the cause of democracy".

There is a "Gresham's Law" which relates to politics as well as to economics. Bad politics drives out good! It is much easier to devalue the political currency than it is to enhance it. Also, once devalued it is very difficult to reverse the electors' disillusion.

After the first flush of hope and enthusiasm the new democracies of eastern Europe and of Africa are already in trouble. Although there are immediate practical steps that can be taken to assist new democracies, the basic problem is that expectations of democracy were always far too high. Envious eyes were all too often cast towards the western democracies and their apparently ever rising standards of living. Over simplified, the equation ran something like this: the west has free elections and free enterprise; the west has affluence; therefore free elections and free enterprise lead to affluence. Particularly in eastern Europe, so close to its western neighbours, too many people believed that they were voting for the supermarket, and failed to see the tell tale signs of communities whose values are arguably much too skewed by economic considerations and whose neighbourhoods are being undermined by their failure to come to grips with the more enduring and real values of human society. As a consequence, when democracy failed to deliver their high hopes and expectations, democracy was blamed and disillusion set in.

In Poland the party structure is fragmented, voter turnout is desperately low, with for years a President, Lech Walesa, in constant strife with parliament. Former Soviet Georgia staggers from one state of emergency to another in its attempt to cope with revolt in Abkhasia. In Hungary constituencies have had to be rerun in an attempt to reach the minimum legal turnout necessary to legitimise the election. In Russia the Communists dominate the Duma and polled 35% against President Yeltsin in 1996, despite the abuse of state power and media against them. The newly unified and democratic Yemen fell apart in a north-south civil war within months of its first genuine election. The articifial coalition which followed the UN run elections in Cambodia staggered from crisis to crisis until it was fatally undermined in a coup in July 1997 - though happily, the new elections a year later seem currently to have produced a stronger democratic base. The elected Palestinian National Authority appears to be unable to restrain the undemocratic excesses of President Arafat. Different registration rules had to be applied in Bosnia - and rigorously policed - in an attempt to prevent the elections further entrenching ethnic cleansing. Poor Sierra Leone, having struggled successfully to vote out its previous military dictatorship, now finds it overthrown by a yet another army officer, with whom the legitimate President has had to compromise. And, in what is probably the most contentious situation of all, an election in Algeria had to be called off when it became clear that the fundamentalist party was going to win - and in the following election the main fundamentalist parties were excluded from competing.

Fortunately, none of these traumatic experiences have - as yet - seriously undermined the various regimes' commitment to democracy and to pluralistic elections. Indeed, in Romania and Serbia there have been healthy signs that the former Communist regimes elected on the back of public disillusion can be replaced through the ballot box, but unless we realise what is happening, and confront the growing belief that democracy cannot transform society, there are dangers ahead from which even in Western Europe will not be able insulate ourselves. A commitment only to the electoral process is not enough. At very least elections buy time, but the time thus bought is not being properly used. Quite apart from the moral case for assisting those struggling to survive, an unstable, nationalistic and fragemented former Soviet Union could make Bosnia look like a side show, and would have serious implications for us all.

Among the practical and urgent necessities of new democracies are sympathetic assistance with the development of parliamentary processes and with the infrastructure of an open, democratic, civil, society. Where the transformation also requires economic changes, this too needs to be underpinned from outside. Such support is not only altruistic but it is also enlightened self interest: it is not in the interests of western society to have widespread instability and insecurity in whole regions of the world.

It follows also from the problems of sustaining democracy that politicians need to avoid bribing the electorate with policy promises that cannot be delivered. Here again this points to the need for parties to emphasise their view of society rather than to place too much stress on expensive specifics.

Manipulation of state power and the media
The two particular ways and means used to undermine the legitimacy of elections are, first, the manipulation of the state's power to assist the government's electoral prospects, and, second, the dominance of the media - particularly the electronic media. In a number of elections in new democracies the Dusseldorf based European Institute for the Media has done a highly professional job of monitoring the media output, both in quality and quantity, and has issued a number of powerful indictments of the abuses practised. Control of television channels is particularly crucial, particularly during the campaign period, not only to ensure that allocated party broadcasts are transmitted on a fair rota, but also to attempt to determine and impose balance on news, commentary and discussion programmes. So much is subjective that it is impossible to succeed completely, but the attempt must be made. Other "ordinary" programming allegedly has an effect. I recall in the Russian Presidential election in 1996 receiving complaints from Zyuganov supporters that on the eve of poll and on polling day the pro-Yeltsin television channels were filling up their schedules with feature films showing the worst excesses of Stalin's regime!

There is a case for the electoral law to provide for an independent Electoral Commission actually to assume control over all television output for, say, two hours each evening of the campaign period. In some countries each party has its own television channel - and the technology to enable this to be affordable is now available. In other countries, including the UK, no paid political advertising is permitted at any time, but "major" parties are allocated free time both in and out of election periods. In Malaëi the UN Electoral Assistance Mission found the money to "sponsor" election broadcasting on radio - there being no domestic television. In Cambodia in 1992, Radio UNTAC provided the only objective domestic news output. Personally, I believe that in virtually every country, and particularly in new democracies, television and sometimes radio is so pervasive and so influential that the need to regulate its output, at least during the election campaign period, needs to be accepted. Without regulation the aim of free and fair elections is even more of a chimera.

Tackling the problems.
Politicians are always in danger in creating an aura of elitism around themselves, often almost suggesting that their work is not for ordinary mortals. At its heart the problems facing every man and woman in Indonesia are essentially very straightforward. The need for food, shelter and for health care; the desire for education and, above all, for a sense of security and contentment. It is, however, also true that the achievement of these aims is desperately complex. In addition the wider problems of the world are also incapable of simplistic answers. It behoves all politicians, however, to speak as simply and as straightforwardly as possible and to avoid deliberately over complicating issues. The electorate deserves to be told the truth as plainly as possible and the politician who acts on the need to be accountable to his or her voters is much more likely to be trusted than the modern snake oil salesman who seeks to give bland assurances or, even worse, avoids meeting with the public.

Three complementary things are required for a healthy democracy and for politics to succeed:

Intellectual rigour: it is vital in the world of today, with its complexities and its competing interests, to approach political problems with real intellectual rigour. The world is full of charlatans with simplistic answers to baffling problems. For those who seek the high calling of politics there is no substitute - alas - to reading as widely as possible, to debating and discussing with as many experts as are available, and to working out with one's colleagues the best means of improving the social, political and economic conditions of the people;

A mission to explain: it is important to use every means possible to take the public into one's confidence, not only via the media but also including the face to face encounter with ordinary people at public meetings. The oral tradition has largely disappeared in western politics, and with it has gone the exposition of a case, followed by cross-examination under questioning from the floor. The electorate must not be under-rated. Even the most unsophisticated of rural people have a real sense of justice and an instinctive and practical awareness of their individual and communal needs.

A desire to involve: politics and democracy work best when there is a genuine and expressed desire on the part of the parties to involve the public in their activities. If parties seem to be elitist and are organised from the centre downwards then members of the public are inhibited from joining and participating. Internal party democracy is important to a healthy political system. The need to have local party officials who recruit members and who hold local meetings. The need to have a method of electing officials at all levels. The need to have a democratic process for determining the party's policy. These are all important aspects of a political process that regards the public as partners in democracy rather than as lobby fodder or as a nuisance to the party leadership.

None of these things will be achieved without hard work and even sacrifice on the part of those who dedicate themselves to the political life. But, however tough politics is, all other ways of organising society are worse! There is a deeply rooted instinctive wish on the part of all peoples to participate in their own governance. Individuals may not know why they wish to take part; they rarely know how to do so, but it is up to politicians to liberate those feelings and to make sure that there is the most involved and best informed electorate possible.

Politics an Art not a Science
In academic institutions politics is often taught as "Political Science". I believe this to be a misnomer. Politics is much more of an art than a science. It is part of the art of living. Being able to govern oneself peacefully and progressively and, in particular, being able to achieve the transfer of power through the democratic process, is a sign that a country is truly civilised. There is, however, one key distinctive feature compared to other arts. The "ordinary" artist works with the paint or the clay to produce the finished product and the materials he or she works with are less important than the final artefact. But the political artist is working with people and they are more important than the final product. In other words, the end does not justify the means. Indeed the means will influence the ends and may even mean that one's policy aims have to be revised to avoid using means which harm individuals.

The best example is probably that of the search for equality. Equality of esteem and of opportunity do not cause too many problems, but the attempt to achieve equality of distribution, whilst in theory a perfectly legitimate and even laudable aim, has invariably been the excuse for the most vicious confiscatory policies, requiring an autocratic and repressive regime. Even then it is unsuccessful as the consequence of such a policy is the destruction of the economic base itself.

Five proposals for future aid
In the light of of the experience of the '90s, five extensions of western governments' policy are needed. These are set out here in the context of young democracies generally, rather than for any particular country.

First, even though the new economic aspirations of the post totalitarian era are impossible to fulfil, a stable currency is a key component of political stability. Historically I know of no country that has successfully achieved the transition to democracy without outside assistance to underpin its currency. We are currently celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Marshall Plan. Where today is the George Marshall with a vision - and a plan - for Eastern Europe? International financial commitment is urgently needed to deal with the debilitating dangers of rampant inflation. It would be cheaper in the long run than picking up the pieces if democracy fails.

Second, there needs to be an awareness of the importance of civil society. The component of democracy that we from established democracies particularly tend to take for granted is the wide variety of civil society, which my former UK Liberal parliamentary colleague Richard Wainwright calls, in a metaphor taken from weaving, the "warp and the weft", and which enables us to have - some - influence over the local school, the council estate, the community health services and the workplace. In western society the establishment of voluntary organisations, pressure groups, and community bodies is normal practice, rarely warranting comment, but in most new democracies it was previously unknown and is still is revolutionary. I vote in an election most weeks - for my trade union officers, the housing association, the school board, the Liberal Party, etc, and without a developing civil society, in which such democracy becomes part and parcel of everyday life, occasional public elections are unlikely to be much more than a democratic veneer giving the semblance without the substance. This appeared to be recognised recently by US Senator John McCain, who said, in relation to the current situation in Cambodia "The lesson is that it's more than an election that makes a democracy."

Third, there needs to be greater attention to the development of political parties. As set out above, without a basis in philosophy, rather than on tribes or in religion, or even on charismatic leaders, there is no longterm future. Only in Namibia has a liberation movement won two elections in a row - and even there the governing party's main base lies in the majority Ovambo tribe. As Neal Ascherson pointed out in the Independent on Sunday, the idealists who led the revolutions have been swept away. South Africa, having coming later to the electoral scene, is still just about imbued with hope, but the ANC had started to look at its future structure and basis rather than holding the complacent assumption that it can rule for ever. A liberation movement is not a politicalparty as such, and when liberation is achieved, the wide coalition that such a movement requires for success makes the task of consistent and coherent government impossible in the longer term, as even the Congress Party of India finally discovered.

Fourth, assistance to the transition needs to extend to the newly elected legislature. It is crazy to say on polling day "goodbye - you're democratic now", when most, if not all of those elected have never previously sat in any elected body. No wonder it all too often falls apart.

Fifth, constitutional and electoral systems need to be reassessed. A strong presidential system, underpinned by unrepresentative election results, gives too little influence to the opposition and tempts those out of power to undermine a fragile democracy by force. There needs to be a legitimate role for all those committed to the electoral process, whether or not in power. An electoral system that combines proportionality and accountability is needed to enhance even the best constitution.

Acceptance of these components of democracy will ensure that elections become a key aspect of the process and underpin their rôle as the means of resolving conflict peacefully. The question of principle for the donor community is how far it uses its aid to force democratic change. The issue of "conditionality" is always difficult for governments worried about neo-colonialism. I have fewer and fewer qualms. A country which misuses aid to benefit the ruling clique and its followers, rather than those in need, for whom the aid was intended, is not entitled to remain immune from pressure for change from those paying the bills.

Indonesia's opportunity.
Indonesia has a great opportunity. The potential to create a new democratic and progressive country lies within the grasp of the political forces that have bravely stepped into the electoral limelight. Winning an election may well be the greatest satisfaction and achievement but, without those who campaign and lose, democracy would not be a reality. Many years ago, when I was first contesting municipal elections in my own city, a much more experienced politician said to me "if you can't afford to lose, you can't afford to win". That advice I pass on to all those involved in Indonesian elections! Participating in the electoral process is itself a vital contribution to democracy. Whether or not a particular political party does well or badly - or whether it even survives these elections - is not necessarily the only thing that matters. The party structure may well change before the next election in the light of the pressures of events and the demands placed upon it, but those who took part in this first genuinely multi-party election are participating in history and are contributing to the emergence of a truly democratic Indonesia.

In the light of the election results, there will be discussion on the suitability of the present electoral system.Party list systems always give the central party bosses too much power at the expense of the voter's choice. But 'first-past-the-post' is always a lottery. It can never guarantee proportionality and, being locked into single-member constituencies with all the pressures on local politics, certainly does not encourage parties to devote much time to the broad sweep of political philosophy. Ideally, preferential voting, with multi-member constituencies in which the elector places the candidates in his or her preferred order, is the system which best meets the competing demands of democracy. Where there is a high illiteracy rate this may be difficult to operate but it would be worth experimenting with mock ballots, elections within NGOs, or even in a number of district elections.

New democracies may be fragile creatures but they are also dynamic. There may well be a honeymoon period after the election of the new President and the inauguration of the new House of Representatives. Indonesians will be watching intently to see whether they have elected men and women of stature. How those charged with the awesome task of preparing this country for the twenty first century fulfil their mandate remains to be seen but one thing is very certain, things will never be the same again. In Indonesia, as everywhere else, politics is far too important to leave to politicians! It is up to every citizen in a democracy to be aware and alert to opportunities and challenges.

The views expressed in this paper are personal and do not necessarily represent the UNDP nor the European Union.