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Impact Of The Bali Bombings


OVERVIEW

Nearly two weeks after the Bali bombings, Indonesia is still in a state of shock, and it is difficult to assess the longer-term impact with any accuracy. This preliminary analysis suggests that:

  • Disenchantment with President Megawati, already high, has increased as a result of 12 October. This could affect the 2004 presidential elections, which for the first time will be determined by direct popular vote.

  • The Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) could benefit from the sense of lack of leadership and a growing nostalgia for what some describe as the decisiveness and certainty of the Soeharto era. The new anti-terrorism decree is not as draconian as originally feared, but it still could boost the army’s role in internal security.

  • Advocates of political reform are worried that the post-Bali focus on security, by the Megawati administration and foreign governments alike, could divert attention from the urgent need to strengthen civilian institutions, reform the armed forces (particularly in terms of fiscal transparency), fix the courts, and end corruption.

  • The impact on radical Muslim organisations is not clear. The Bali bombings have made a backlash by militants against the arrest of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir less likely. On the other hand, many Indonesians do not accept that militant Muslims were responsible for the attack, and the belief that the U.S. was behind the bombing as a way of winning support for a war on Iraq is widely enough held in the country that there is little incentive for hardliners to question their own beliefs or organisational affiliations.

  • Bali itself has been devastated, physically, emotionally, and economically, but the response of both central and provincial governments have been swift. It remains to be seen whether the many promises made in terms of relief and recovery can be met.

  • While most international businesses intend to stay, the collapse of the tourist industry, not just in Bali, could take at least a percentage point off Indonesia’s GDP over the coming year.

  • It is unclear how conflict areas will be affected. The disbanding of Laskar Jihad, decided before the bombings but announced afterwards, is good news for Maluku and Poso, but appears to be unrelated to the bombings. It is not likely to have any impact on the threat of terrorism because Laskar Jihad was never part of Abu Bakar Bas’asyir’s network in the first place – if indeed that network proves responsible for the blast. In Aceh and Papua, there is concern that new anti-terrorism measures will be directed sooner or later against supporters of independence.

Jakarta/Brussels, 24 October 2002




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