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Only the nave make confident predictions about Indonesian politics

By Duncan Graham - posted Friday, 5 June 2009


Is the Indonesian election result a fait accompli?

Among the many problems in the complex Indonesian electoral system are its cumbersome procedures. The general election was held on April 9. There were 38 parties contesting and the big ballot paper confused many.

The results came within a month confirming early counts, but the presidential election will not be held till July 8.

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If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the vote there’ll be a run off on September 8.

Under Indonesian law the people directly elect the president and vice president for a five-year term. In the 2004 election the Democratic Party was a tiny player with less than 8 per cent of the vote. But the electorate wanted the DP leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (best known as SBY), not his principal rival Megawati Soekarnoputri, by a margin of three to two.

On the surface it looks as though the ballot in July will be decisive, but only the naïve make confident predictions about Indonesian politics. Although the present president is scoring a whopping 70 per cent in popularity polls against Megawati at 15 per cent, a lot can happen in the next six weeks.

Take, for example, the arrest this month of the Corruption Commission boss, Antasari Azhar, on charges of being involved in the murder of a businessman. Although no one has been convicted, the scandal, which also involves a female golf caddy, has damaged SBY’s clean-up campaign.

Apart from more similar weird happenings the main problem is elector fatigue. If all the pundits are saying SBY will win, why bother to go through the boring and complex process of exercising the democratic process yet again, particularly when it’s not compulsory?

SBY’s Democratic Party doesn’t have the industrial strength machinery to get the voters mobilised when compared to Megawati’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) and Golkar.

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This is the party created by the late authoritarian president Soeharto and ensured he was elected for 32 years by crushing dissent. Golkar’s candidate for the presidency is Jusuf Kalla, the present vice-president who’s standing against his boss.

Kalla has selected Wiranto, a former general, as his VP candidate. Megawati has also gone to the army for her running mate, picking Prabowo Subianto, another retired general with a questionable human rights record and Soeharto’s former son-in-law.

Curious couplings indeed, but offering a glimpse of the residual influence of the military in Indonesian affairs and the complex undercurrents of ethnicity, religion, history and money that swirl through Indonesian politics.

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About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

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All articles by Duncan Graham

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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