03 May 2004

Indonesian Legislative Elections, 2004: Round-up and Analysis

The South Asia Analysis Group has the most comprehensive round-up of data and analysis on the April 5 legislative elections in Indonesia that I've seen so far.
The voting pattern has indicated that majority still prefers the old school of politics as seen from the strong showing of Golkar, PDI-P and the PPP. On the other hand there are voters (presumably in the urban areas and the younger generation) who are looking for a political change as is reflected in the emergence of parties such as the Democratic Party and the PKS.

There is widespread political disillusionment over the last 5 years (2 years under the deposed president Abdurrahman Wahid and 3 years under Megawati Sukarnoputri). News reports elicited from the people from various walks of life indicated that the general public would be happy to go back to the New Order days when there was more political stability.

One of the main reasons for the disillusionment of Megawati regime has been the slow progress of the economic reforms. Besides some of the reforms such as cuts in power subsidies were unpopular. The high percentage of unemployment has not been attended to. Corruption at all levels is also affecting the economy. Incidentally a survey of foreign businessmen carried out by Hong Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Limited indicates that Indonesia is the most corrupt country in Asia for the third year running.
Unfortunately, the analysis was posted on 20 April, just before the final vote tally and just before Golkar nominated General Wiranto as its presidential candidate. Here's what the SAAG had to say about the upcoming presidential elections on 5 July.
It may be remembered that in 1999, a loose grouping of Islamic parties succeeded in preventing Megawati from becoming the president even though her party (PDI-P) was the leading party with 34 per cent of the votes. Amien Rais of the National Mandate party, who is also speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), is trying a similar strategic move this time by forming a coalition called “Save the Nation Axis” with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). This only confirms his ambitions for the post of the president.

The leading contenders to the post of the President are:

Akbar Tandjung of Golkar (party ranking first in this election)

Megawati Sukarnoputri of PDI-P

Susilo Bambang Yudhyono of Democratic Party

Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party

The position may become clear once the Golkar convention scheduled for 20 April decides about its presidential candidate. Akbar Tandjung, a seasoned politician since 1977 and a former minister under Suharto, has recently been accused of corruption in a major case though he has been cleared by the Supreme Court. The fight in Golkar is primarily between him and General Wiranto, a former armed forces chief who has been indicted for atrocities in East Timor.

With the strong mandate for Golkar, Akbar Tandjung has all the advantages and the political acumen for becoming the next president. However the opinion polls show that Susilo Bambang Yudhyono, the former security minister under Megawati and a former general is ahead of all the other presidential candidates including Akbar Tandjung. He has also scored over Golkar and the PDI-P by selecting Jusuf Kalia, the Chief Social Welfare Minister as his running mate for the presidential election. Both Golkar and the PDI-P were eyeing him as their vice presidential candidate. The chances of Megawati returning as president by a successful manipulation of a viable coalition are not very bright. As Abdurrahman Wahid made it to the presidency in 1999 from nowhere, the presidential poll this time also can bring a surprise winner, though it may not be in the best interests of the country.

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