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Golkar vows not yo repeat Suharto-era blunders - The chairman of Indonesia's former ruling Golkar party has promised not to repeat the mistakes it made as former dictator, Suharto's political vehicle. Akbar Tandjung, who is also parliamentary speaker and a presidential-hopeful, insists that his party is committed to reform. The party has been using the economic stability of the Suharto-era as a ticket to garner more votes. As Indonesians go to the polls in legislative elections on Monday, April 5th, analysts are saying that voters are now concerned with electing a party that can bring about economic prosperity.
Recent polls suggest a Golkar resurgence as the PDI-P's reign has seen lacklustre economic recovery. So will Golkar indeed trounce President Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI-P in Monday's election? Bharati Jagdish (BJ) put this to political analyst, Dr Greg Barton (GB) from the Deakin University in Australia.

GB: "Well, the short answer is "yes"! The long answer is what percentage of the votes will Golkar get? I think it's quite likely that Golkar will get more votes than PDI-P this time, but it certainly won't get enough votes to govern in its own right. The significance of such an outcome would be that it would give Golkar's presidential candidate the best possible platform to contest the presidency. But Golkar will have to form a coalition to govern in parliament."

BJ: Now, it seems that quite a number of politicians are using this idea of economic stability of the past - of the Suharto era - as the ticket to more votes. His own daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana whose party is also contesting the election, keeps mentioning his name at political rallies and even in her party political advertisements. Is this what Indonesians want - a hark back to the Suharto era, or perhaps elements of that era?

GB: "They certainly want the prosperity of that era, but what most ordinary voters don't recognise is that the reason Indonesia is in such dire economic straits now is precisely because of the unpaid bills of the Suharto era. Of course, this does not get in the way of campaigning. People primarily want the return to economic prosperity and in order to get a strong party like Golkar to bring this about, people are willing to pay a little bit of a price with regards to personal freedoms if they can get decent economic growth and jobs."

BJ: Do you see Siti Hardiyanti's party, Concern for the National Functional Party or PKPB as a formidable force at all?

GB: "Not in this election and not in the next election either. Some analysts believe it will do well in the next one, but I don't think so. But what's important about the fact that people are harking back to Suharto is that Golkar can do this almost as effectively as Siti Hardiyanti because Golkar was Suharto's party. People intuitively recognise or at least hope that Golkar is professional and can do stuff."

BJ: In terms of candidates for the presidency, would you say Megawati is still on top?

GB: "It's a matter of interpretation. There has been some polling, but it's pretty hard to read. My own interpretation is that the front-runner at the moment is no longer Megawati, but Akbar Tandjung because of the Golkar machinery. Megawati is second on my list because she is the incumbent and that puts her in a strong position by default. Next, a candidate like Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. If he received the nomination of Abdurrahman Wahid's PKB party, and fourth most likely winner, I would say Wiranto."

BJ: The fact that people like Akbar Tandjung who was charged with corruption at one point and Wiranto who has had charges of human rights atrocities leveled against him before - the fact that these are the people considered to be front-runners for the presidency - what does that say about the state of Indonesian politics?

GB: "I guess what this means is that people want to return to economic prosperity and recognise that this would require strong leadership and they're putting that ahead of everything else. In the case of Akbar, in the current scheme of things, given the wide level of corruption, I think people are starting to think it is almost acceptable to have a leader who was charged with graft and then cleared, even if he was cleared under suspicious circumstance."

BJ: There have been some logistical problems surrounding this election in terms of getting the election materials like ballot papers and so on to the polling centres on time. The Election Commission is saying that it will most likely hold the election in all areas simultaneously, but if the problems persist, the poll may be delayed in several areas. Do you see this as a significant problem?

GB: "The election commission has taken a bizarrely upbeat tone every time it's given a report and people are skeptical of those reports, so we won't really know whether they could get it together until Monday morning. One of the problems in this election is that it's likely to lead to a lot of frustration and confusion, so any cloud over matters of logistics, for example, if the ballot papers are badly printed, is going to lead to widespread resentment. I expect out of about 140 million votes that will be cast on Monday, we could see tens of millions of invalid votes because the system is very complex. A large proportion of voters don't even know how to vote. They may become clearer about this on Monday, but I still expect a large number of invalid votes."

Posted in Elections @ 13 April 2004 00:05 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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