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Suharto's old party eyes first place in poll JAKARTA - The former party of ousted autocrat Suharto is set to win the most votes in Indonesia's parliamentary elections on Monday as it taps a yearning for the stability and rapid economic growth of his long rule. Although opinion polls show Golkar, once Suharto's political vehicle, getting nowhere near an absolute majority, the result is likely to be a big blow to incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri and could dent her hopes of winning a second term later this year.
More than 147 million voters in the world's most populous Muslim nation are eligible to take part in elections for the 550-seat parliament and local legislatures, billed as the biggest and most complex one-day vote the world has ever seen. Tens of thousands of police and soldiers will guard polling stations amid fears that Muslim militants could launch attacks. Given the size of Indonesia, it may take one or two days before a significant number of votes have been counted.
Besides putting Golkar ahead of Megawati's Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), opinion polls also show the president trailing for the first time in the presidential election race set for July to her former chief security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The respected retired general, the candidate of a smaller party, quit the cabinet last month after a row with Megawati.
"This may be the watershed point," said William Liddle, an Indonesian expert at Ohio State University visiting for the election. "Support for Megawati's party has been going down for some time. Now her personal popularity is also dropping." The latest Indonesia Survey Institute poll showed Golkar winning 23.2 percent of Monday's vote, with Megawati's party, currently the strongest in parliament, taking 17.5 percent. A separate poll by a U.S.-based group had Golkar with 22.2 percent and PDI-P 11.5 percent in a field of two dozen parties. Both Golkar and PDI-P are secular-nationalist.
On the logistical front, there have been delays getting ballot boxes and ballots to remote parts of the country. In Aceh in the far northwest and Papua in the far east, both provinces home to separatist movements, a lack of election material could mean a delayed vote in isolated areas.

Scramble for Coalitions

The parliamentary vote marks only the second time Indonesians have taken part in a democratic ballot since Suharto's downfall in 1998. This year's presidential election will be the country's first direct vote for that post. As the polls point to no party getting a majority, Monday's results will be followed by a scramble to build coalitions before the presidential vote. Although bomb blasts have killed hundreds of people in Indonesia in recent years, terrorism and the country's militant Islamic fringe have largely been sidelined in the campaign as candidates seek to avoid inflaming Muslim sensibilities.
Instead, they have spoken about jobs and graft. That is where Megawati's government had failed to deliver, said political analyst Dewi Fortuna Anwar. "I think the government has done relatively well with stability, and the macro-economic indicators are positive, but the government has not been able to go that extra mile in pursuing reform and eradicating corruption, ensuring rule of law and especially in providing jobs," she said.
Standard Chartered Indonesia economist Fauzi Ichsan said that if the market was happy with the elections, money would flow into the capital markets. For foreign direct investment to return, the new government would have to deal with legal uncertainty, regional autonomy and labour regulations, he added. While seeking to distance itself from Suharto's excesses, Golkar has stressed stability and its record in government. However, in terms of policy, little separates Golkar from most of its secular and Muslim-based rivals.



Posted in Elections @ 04 April 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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