Spread across a chain of thousands of islands between Asia and Australia, Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. Ethnically it is highly diverse, with more than 300 local languages. Sophisticated kingdoms existed before the arrival of the Dutch, who consolidated their hold over two centuries, eventually uniting the archipelago around 1900. After Japan’s wartime occupation ended, independence was proclaimed in 1945 by Sukarno and Hatta. The Dutch transferred sovereignty in 1949 after an armed struggle.
Long-term leader General Suharto came to power in the wake of a 1965 failed coup, which was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party and led to the killing of an estimated 1 million of its members and alleged supporters. After 32 years of benevolent dictatorship, Suharto was forced to resign in 1998 amid protests, riots and a severe economic crisis. Since then, Indonesia has made the transition to democracy. Power has been devolved away from the central government. Indonesians will go to the polls in 2019 for national elections.
Administratively, Indonesia consists of 34 provinces. Each province has its own political legislature and governor. The provinces are subdivided into regencies (kabupaten) and cities (kota), which are further subdivided into subdistricts (kecamatan) and again into village groupings (either desa or kelurahan). Furthermore, a village is divided into several citizen-groups (Rukun-Warga RW) which are further divided into several neighborhoodgroups (Rukun-Tetangga RT). Following the implementation of regional autonomy measures in 2001, the regencies and cities have become the key administrative units, responsible for providing most government services. The village administration level is the most influential on citizens’ daily life, and handles matters of a village through an elected lurah or village chief (kepala desa).
The provinces of Aceh, Jakarta, Yogyakarta and West Papua have greater legislative privileges and a higher degree of autonomy from the central government than the other provinces. The Acehnese government has the right to create an independent legal system; in 2003, it instituted a form of Sharia (Islamic law). Yogyakarta was granted the status of Special Region in recognition of its pivotal role in supporting Indonesian Republicans during the Indonesian Revolution. Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, now West Papua, was granted special autonomy status in 2001. (Credit to : Jakarta KwikFind Magz)
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