Facts about Indonesia
The archipelago consists of more than 17,500 islands, of which more than 6000 are inhabited. The largest islands and regions are Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua. Jakarta is the political center, and is situated on the island of Java. In fact, more than 60% of Indonesians live on Java. Islam is the predominant religion, and about 86,1% of the population are Muslims. Protestants consists of about 5,7%, and Catholics around 3%. Hindus, mostly on Bali, constitutes around 1,8%, and the remaining 3,4% are others or unspecified (CIA, 2011).
Indonesia has a long history of colonization; first by the Portuguese who arrived in Maluku in 1512, and then by the Dutch and the East India Company or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), who dominated Indonesia from the 17th century (Store Norske Leksikon 2009). VOC was dissolved in 1799, and in 1816, the Dutch made a deal with the British that allowed them to place all of Indonesia under direct Dutch control.
Finally, Indonesia declared themselves independent on August the 17th 1945 – an independence the Dutch would not accept until the 27th of December 1949. President Sukarno then led the country until he was overthrown in 1967. General Suharto, who played an important role in trying to stop a coup in 1965, was in 1968 formally appointed as president by a consultative public assembly.
The authoritarian and centralist Suharto-regime collapsed in 1998, and the first free multi-party election was held in 1999. Indonesia is a quite recent democracy, and is now a republic with a presidential system. The country was literally forced towards political reform, and decentralization laws from 1999 and -reforms from 2001 led to one of the fastest and most comprehensive decentralization processes in history (Kristiansen et al. 2009).
The election in 2004 was the first election where Indonesians voted directly for president and vice president. The president currently in office is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and the Indonesian president serves as head of state, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, in addition to director of domestic governance, policy-making and foreign affairs. Indonesia is geographically, culturally and ethnically a very diverse country, with more than 700 languages spoken (Ethnologue, 2011). As a result the political scene is quite fragmented, and there are more than 40 political parties in Indonesia – of which nine are parliamentary. All political parties have to be anchored in the Panca Sila (meaning five rules); the philosophical and ideological foundation for the Indonesian state.
The five rules are:
- Belief in the one God
- A just and civilized humanity
- Indonesian unity
- Democracy under the wise guidance of representative consultations
- Social justice for all the people of Indonesia
Administratively, Indonesia is divided into 33 provinces (propinsi), who are subdivided in the following way:
- Province (propinsi)
- Districts (kabupaten) and cities (kota)
- Sub-districts (kecamatan)
- Village level (desa)
- Sub-village (dusun). The Dusuns are sometimes further divided into two more units:
- RW (Rukun Warga)
- RT (Rukun Tetangga)