Needless to say, Indonesia and Egypt also differ in some important respects. Unlike Indonesia, the uneasy interregnum in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak has unfolded under direct military rule. In Indonesia, secular political parties -- like the old regime's Golkar and even Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI -- played a major role in the transition to democracy. In Egypt, by contrast, weak secular political parties failed to play a significant role in the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, thus leaving the field open to Islamic party dominance. And there is another notable divergence. In Indonesia, the more traditionalist Islamic institutions remained autonomous from the government, while ambitious modernist Islamic groups were increasingly co-opted by the state over the long Suharto years. In Egypt, by contrast, established centers of Islamic learning like Al-Azhar University were subordinated to state control, while the Muslim Brotherhood retained its independence, thus making modernist Islam a powerful autonomous force in society before and after the fall of Mubarak.
But given the important parallels and instructive precedents, how should Egyptians and others concerned about Egypt's future learn from the Indonesian experience? On the one hand, Egyptians and other interested observers of Egyptian politics should not allow current fears of the "Islamist threat" to dilute support for a continued transition from authoritarian rule to democracy, to accept any attempts by the military to constrain the powers of elected civilian officials, or to embrace military intervention in the upcoming presidential elections. On the other hand, Egyptians and others who claim to care about Egyptian democracy should push hard now to make the most of available democratic space to insist on a new constitution, a presidential election, and wide-ranging institutional reforms. Otherwise, in years ahead, Egyptians may look back on 2011-2012 with the same disillusionment -- and the same sense of missed opportunity -- that is widespread in Indonesia today.