Democracy In Action

2 minute read
Bryan Walsh

When Indonesian voters went to the polls on Monday to elect a new Parliament, it was expected to be the largest single-day electoral exercise in history. With up to 147 million voters casting ballots, the results won’t come in for days, but they’ll be a vital indicator of what could happen in an even more momentous election on July 5, when the country will directly elect its President for the first time ever. Monday’s results are important for any political party that wants to field a presidential candidate, says Kevin O’Rourke, author of Reformasi: The Struggle for Power in Post-Suharto Indonesia. “This election will clarify the picture for the presidency, which is the big prize.”

To qualify for the July campaign, a candidate’s party must have won 3% of the seats in Parliament or 5% of Monday’s vote. Analysts expect up to seven parties to make the grade. President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle is sure to be among them, but widespread disenchantment over her perceived detachment and inaction will probably cut into its support. The party might even be surpassed by Golkar, the political machine created by former dictator Suharto, who was forced to resign in 1998. Nostalgia is growing for the Suharto era, when prices were stable and economic growth strong, and that could benefit both Golkar and a party recently formed by Suharto’s daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana. Another threat is posed by Megawati’s former security chief, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democrat Party, who rivals his former boss in opinion polls. Even so, Megawati remains the candidate to beat in July, thanks to her pedigree as daughter of Indonesia’s founding President Sukarno. No other Indonesian politician has the same national recognition as the woman referred to by many as “Mother Mega.”

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