Indonesia, a nation of thousands of islands and almost 250 million people, straddles the junction of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has presided over 6 per cent average yearly growth of its economy, to surpass $1 trillion. If this rate continues, Indonesia will join the world's ten biggest economies in a decade or so, just behind the so-called BRIC countries. The much-discussed recent documentary The Act of Killing revived some of its darker past, and Barack Obama's reminiscences about the childhood years he spent there briefly shone the spotlight on a country many Americans know little about. Yet as Indonesia approaches its 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections, its future is wide open. Though the largest Muslim nation by population, it remains a receiver of wisdom from the Arab world, rather than a messenger of multi-religious tolerance. Its pursuit of trade agreements with Japan and South Korea have burnished its economic ambitions, but its diplomacy is long on so-called "soft power," and short on sanctions or force.
So what does the future hold for this pivotal place? Award-winning Asia-Pacific journalist Hamish McDonald's Demokrasi is an accessible and authoritative introduction to the modern history and politics of this fascinating country.