Indonesia: Parliamentary Elections Begin, First Test for Presidential Elections

Updated On: Apr 09, 2009

The legislative elections that began in Indonesia on 8 Apr could be the first test for Presidential Elections later this year. Many analysts suggest that the outcome, while separate from the presidential contest, will effectively determine if President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will have enough support to win a second five-year term with the necessary mandate to push through aggressive economic and institutional reforms.

The outcome of Thursday's election for a new 560-member legislature is being closely watched because it will determine who will qualify to run for president in July.  A party that wins a fifth of the seats - or 25 percent of the popular vote - can nominate a candidate for that race on its own

Yudhoyono's Democrat Party has been rising in the polls. But it is not certain the party can capture enough seats to nominate him as a candidate. If not, he will then have to form a coalition with one or more partners who could be less willing to tackle corruption, overhaul the judiciary and streamline bureaucracy.

Other front-runners are the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle headed by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and the largest party, Golkar, headed by current Vice-President Jusuf Khalla.  More than 170 million people are registered to vote and there are 38 parties to choose from.

While Indonesian is predominately Muslim, most analysts say these elections could see the waning of popularity for religious parties. The Indonesian Survey Institute poll showed the Democratic Party would win 26 percent of the popular vote; the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle 14 percent; and Golkar 13 percent. The four Islamic-based parties each came in at around 4 percent. The survey, based on interviews with 2,486 people, had a margin of error of 2.3 percent.

While Indonesian elections since the fall of Suharto have been relatively peaceful, incidents are not unknown.

Just hours before the first polling stations opened, violence flared in the easternmost province of Papua, the scene of a decades-long insurgency. At least six people were killed, but by midmorning, the situation appeared calm, with voters forming long lines to cast ballots.

Source: Jakarta Post, Indonesians vote for new parliament, 9 Apr 2009, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/04/09/indonesians-vote-new-parli...

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