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Setback for favourite in Indonesia poll

By Graham Cooke - posted Monday, 28 April 2014

While the final results in Indonesia's parliamentary elections will not be known until next month, it appears no one party has secured enough seats or votes to nominate a candidate for the presidency.

Under the country's electoral laws only parties receiving 25 per cent of the vote or 20 per cent of the seats in the 560-member Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (national parliament) can put forward their preferred candidate for the presidential election, which takes place in July.

This means that the larger parties, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Golkar and the Greater Indonesian Movement (Gerindra) will have to negotiate with smaller groups and independents if they want to get their presidential nominees across the line as well as forming a government with a majority in the next parliament.


This is a significant blow to the presidential front runner, Joko Widodo, of the PDIP, which is likely to fall just short on the vote count at around 19 per cent. This might not have been such a disaster had PDIP not been talking up its prospects before the polls, with some officials saying it would get as much as 30 per cent of the vote.

In addition, Widodo has for months been considered the 'president in waiting' to succeed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who is constitutionally barred from a third term. The popular Governor of Jakarta gloried in his nickname of Jokowi, and the 'Jokowi effect' was expected to sweep him into office, if not in a landslide, then by a comfortable margin.

Now he has been brought solidly back to earth and has had to scrabble around for the necessary support. In my four decades of covering elections in various countries it is almost a rule that early front runners, if receiving a setback, suffer reverse momentum and find it hard to reclaim lost ground.

Already the detractors are making themselves heard with a current PDIP Member of Parliament, Budiman Sudjatmiko, calling for an internal evaluation of the parliamentary campaign, suggesting that the party did not work hard enough, assuming the election was already in the bag.

Other observers are beginning to see Widodo's closeness to PDIP chairwomen and former national president Megawati Sukarnoputri as a liability.

Widodo is now in damage control, saying the presidential poll will require a quite different strategy. "There will be only three or four candidates in the race; the parliamentary race had 6600 candidates," he is reported as saying


After the dust has cleared Widodo will probably go into the mix with two other candidates, Aburizal Bakrie for Golkar and Prabowo Subianto (Gerindra).

Bakrie is a successful businessman, but little known to the electorate at large. Moreover his path to the party's nomination last June is strewn with controversy with many insiders saying it was rushed through without proper consultation of members, or the opportunity to put up an alternative candidate.

However, the official party line was that whoever was the candidate needed plenty of time to gain a profile among Indonesia's 187 million voters, especially as Widodo already had a big advantage in this area.

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About the Author

Graham Cooke has been a journalist for more than four decades, having lived in England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, for a lengthy period covering the diplomatic round for The Canberra Times.

He has travelled to and reported on events in more than 20 countries, including an extended stay in the Middle East. Based in Canberra, where he obtains casual employment as a speech writer in the Australian Public Service, he continues to find occasional assignments overseas, supporting the coverage of international news organisations.

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