Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Indonesian President Joko Widodo during an event at the Presidential Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on June 5, 2018. Photo: Anton Raharjo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Indonesia, the third-biggest democracy in the world, will hold presidential elections next April. Since the late 1990s, when the economy crashed, the corrupt Suharto dictatorship collapsed, and the country appeared to be falling into chaos, Indonesia has stabilized and held multiple free presidential elections.

Yes, but: Although the country has made enormous progress since 1998, potential dangers remain. Islamist groups, many allied with a Trump-like populist former lieutenant general, have recently gained power, and the elections could put Indonesia on a democratic backslide.

The background: Last year, Islamist groups spearheaded a smear campaign and massive rallies to unseat Jakarta’s Christian, ethnic Chinese governor, who eventually wound up in jail for blasphemy. These same groups may use their growing power in the Indonesian streets, and the threat of a fragile economy, to defeat the current president, Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi.

Although a Jokowi win is still the likeliest scenario, he cannot take it for granted. Jokowi has not delivered on many of the promises of his 2014 campaign, during which he was an Obama-like figure of hope for some Indonesians. Corruption and money politics remain problems, strong growth rates have not made a major dent in unemployment, and Jokowi has not fulfilled his vows to improve the human rights climate. Moreover, Indonesia is considered one of the “fragile five” of developing economies whose currencies, like the Turkish lira, have plummeted against the U.S. dollar, and its high share of foreign-denominated debt could put it at risk in a global financial crisis

Jokowi’s challenger, Prabowo Subianto, seems to relish the idea of ruling as a strongman. A former lieutenant general and Suharto’s erstwhile son-in-law, Prabowo has repeatedly suggested rolling back Indonesian democracy. On the campaign trail, he is likely to broadcast a nationalistic platform and possibly stoke anti-minority sentiment, which could easily spread in a country with the fourth-largest number of Facebook users in the world and a long history of violence against ethnic minorities.

What to watch: Indonesia is less fragile than countries such as Turkey. But if a global emerging markets crisis hits and investors come hunting harder for Indonesia, and Jokowi and his economic team cannot respond effectively, economic fears — combined with Prabowo’s support from powerful Islamist groups — could put the former army man over the top.

The bottom line: If Prabowo wins, it might signal that populism, with authoritarian elements, will have started to take over Southeast Asia. Such a shift might make an already combustible region even hotter, and undermine the stability of the anchor of Southeast Asia.

Joshua Kurlantzick is Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.