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Megawati's party loses ground in election JAKARTA - President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party slumped in parliamentary elections on Monday, may have difficulty regaining the presidency in July, according to a national sample of returns released Tuesday. The findings of the vote sample organized by the National Democratic Institute, a Washington-based organization financed by the United States, showed her Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle in second place, behind Golkar, the party of the former dictator Suharto.
Significantly, the rankings were determined by Mrs. Megawati's party's slippage rather than Golkar's gain. The count of 289,000 votes from the nation's 32 provinces projected that her party would win 18.8 percent of the vote, 14 percentage points below its first-place showing in 1999. "It shows that at this stage she is very vulnerable and it is a very difficult proposition for her to win" in the July presidential election, said Yusuf Wanandi, founder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, and a veteran analyst of Indonesian politics. "The emotional support for her does not exist anymore, and everyone knows she hasn't performed."
With a projected 22.7 percent of the vote, Golkar would have fared about as well as it did in 1999, when Mrs. Megawati's party, riding a tide of anti-Suharto feeling, easily defeated Golkar. There had been some expectations that this time Golkar's support would surge well above its 1999 levels. But rather than show a wave of nostalgia for the era of General Suharto, voters - certainly in Jakarta - seemed to be saying they wanted more performance out of government.
And so, urban voters appeared to have turned to two lesser-known parties: the Justice Party, which is an Islamic party, and the Democratic Party, whose standard-bearer, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is a former general who served in Mrs. Megawati's cabinet. Official counting moved ahead slowly on Tuesday as results trickled in from remote posts to regional headquarters and were then relayed to the central Election Commission in Jakarta. There were 147 million eligible voters, and turnout in many regions exceeded 80 percent. Official results are not expected for a week, perhaps longer.
But at party headquarters around Jakarta, there was little disagreement that Mrs. Megawati's party had polled far below its 1999 standing. Even with large numbers of votes still to be counted from the heartland of Java, Indonesia's most populated island and the place where Mrs. Megawati is expected to show residual strength, it seemed clear that she had lost considerable ground as a leader. "There will be some reordering within Indonesia politics," said Paul Rowland, the National Democratic Institute's representative here. Mr. Rowland said that an attitude survey conducted by the institute showed that the issues of most concern to voters were jobs, the economy and education.
In all those categories, Mrs. Megawati's government has been lethargic. About one-third of Indonesia's work force is unemployed or underemployed, and Indonesia's economic growth is among the weakest in Southeast Asia. The new Democratic Party appears to have won enough votes in the parliamentary election on Monday to nominate General Susilo as its presidential candidate in July. A political party must garner at least 5 percent of the popular vote to field a presidential candidate, and the party reached 7.3 percent in the institute's survey.
The party benefited from General Susilo's military background and reputed lack of corruption. "Susilo now has a vehicle and that puts him in a spot where he can be a leading presidential candidate," Mr. Rowland said. The Justice Party also passed the threshold with 7.2 percent in the institute's survey. Although it wants Islamic law in Indonesia, the party stressed anticorruption themes and education in its campaign rather than religion.
Rakyat Merdeka, a Jakarta newspaper known for its irreverent headlines, summed up some of the mood here with a front-page banner on Tuesday morning: "Hello Jakarta: Just Say Goodbye to the White Mouth." The campaign mascot of Mrs. Megawati's party was the face of a black buffalo - a beloved animal among Java's peasants - with a white mouth - a symbol of honesty.



Posted in Elections @ 07 April 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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