Indonesia: Now for the Presidency


Assoc Prof David Reeve

Does Indonesia have swinging voters? It certainly does! In the April 5 general elections they swung with a vengeance, slashing Megawati's PDIP vote from 33.7 to 19.4 per cent. This is a terrible blow to Megawati's expectations of re-election as president on 5 July.

For Golkar, the election results were mixed. At last count it had 21.2 per cent, still edging up as counting continues, compared to 22.4 per cent in 1999. Golkar had hoped that nostalgia for the Suharto era might provide a large swing.

Not so, but Golkar is now the largest party in Indonesia. It has consolidated its hold outside Java, coming first in some 24 of 33 constituencies. The PDIP remains no. 1 only in Central Java, Yogyakarta, Bali, and the small island province Bangka-Belitung. Golkar had previously imagined running for the vice-presidency in tandem with Megawati. Now the presidency is possible.

The most startling results came with the emergence of two new parties into the top rank. The Partai Demokrat came from nowhere to win 7.54 per cent of the vote, helping to propel its leader, retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former coordinating minister for politics and security, into the position of current hot favourite for the presidency in July. And a reformist Islamic party, the PKS (Prosperous Justice party), led by Hidayat Nurwahid, leapt to 7.19 per cent. The PKS topped the poll in Jakarta, with Partai Demokrat second, leaving the older parties floundering. What happens first in Jakarta can follow elsewhere.

Twenty-four parties ran in the April 5 elections. Seventeen won less then 3 per cent each, including the parties of Suharto's daughter Tutut, and of Megawati's sisters Sukmawati and Rachmawati. The only real labour party, led by senior unionist Muchtar Pakpahan, came in last with 0.46 per cent.

Indonesian politics are now realigned. The two new parties with reputations for being clean have pushed into the limelight with about 15 per cent of the vote between them. The five big parties from the 1999 election have lost ground except for Abdurrachman Wahid's PKB, up from 10.7 to 11.8 per cent, and first in its stronghold of East Java.

Jakarta is seething with rumours and negotiations concerning the presidential-vice-presidential teams that must be registered by 12 May. Parties are desperately seeking a pairing that combines Javanese-non-Javanese, nationalist-Muslim, and hopefully civilian-(ex)military.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has scored a coup by getting Golkar's Yusuf Kalla to join him as running mate. They are current favourites. This clever teaming caused Golkar to go for retired General Wiranto. Wiranto's financial resources are also strong. Renewed violence in Ambon may be aimed at discrediting the SBY-Kalla team, which had won applause for reducing regional conflict. Megawati could be stuck with vice-president Hamzah Haz.

What will campaign themes be? There has never been a direct election for president before, so Indonesians are now breaking new political ground

WATCHPOINT: The presidential campaigns from 1 June -1 July will be fascinating.


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