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INDONESIA POLLS: PDI-P takes clear lead in quick vote counts

Publication Date : 10-04-2014


The Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) has emerged the clear leader in the general election after a decade in opposition, garnering about 19 per cent of the vote based on early counts.

"The people have put their faith in the PDI-P," Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, 52, the party's presidential candidate, told a press conference yesterday.

The margin of victory, however, was lower than the party's target of 27 per cent, which observers had forecast, citing a "Jokowi effect" after the PDI-P said he would run for the top job.

Several observers said this was because voters did not want any one party to be too dominant.

"This is the new normal of Indonesian politics after the Suharto era," Dr Rizal Sukma, executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told The Straits Times.

"Indonesians are able to separate the general election from the presidential election."

Still, the PDI-P's result is significant as it gives the party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri a freer hand in nominating Joko's running mate for the July 9 presidential election. This is because the PDI-P is likely to get the 112 seats it needs in the 560-member Parliament to meet the threshold for fielding a presidential pairing.

But yesterday's result also signals that the presidential race will be a tougher one for Joko, who may not secure the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off vote in September. The PDI-P's smaller- than-expected win appears also to have re-energised his rivals.

Seat counts will be known only next month, when the official results are announced. But quick counts conducted by pollsters at a sample of polling stations nationwide gave a fairly accurate indication of how the final tally will pan out. These will, in the coming days, determine how parties decide on potential coalitions they need to form ahead of July's vote.

Yesterday, former president Suharto's Golkar party, which has never been out of government, won some 15 per cent of votes and remained the second-largest force in the House, thanks to voters in Sumatra and Sulawesi.

But the biggest gainer by far was the six-year-old Gerindra party of former general Prabowo Subianto. It got 12 per cent of votes, ousting the Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from the top three.

Gerindra, which won only 26 seats in 2009, made gains in areas where the Democrats had been strong, on the back of Prabowo's popularity and image as a strong leader. The Democrats managed only 10 per cent, half what they got before.

The Islamic parties sprang back with a better-than-expected combined total of 31 per cent of votes, up from 26 per cent in 2009. Top was the National Awakening Party of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, with some 9 per cent of votes.

Yesterday's election was largely peaceful, with voter turnout of around 72 per cent, similar to the 71 per cent in 2009.

Dr Yudhoyono called the polls "one more step towards Indonesia becoming a mature democracy".

But with the presidential prize ahead, Gerindra's Prabowo said: "The battle has just begun."


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