Yudhoyono Well Placed for Indonesia's Presidential Elections

By Gee, John | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Yudhoyono Well Placed for Indonesia's Presidential Elections


Gee, John, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


PRESIDENT SUSILO Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party (PD) was the big winner in Indonesia's April 9 general election, winning 20.85 percent of the national vote. Given the fragmented state of Indonesian politics, this gave it a comfortable edge over its leading rivals.

Of an electorate of 171 million, 120 million Indonesians voted. Thirty-eight parties contested the election, but only nine will be represented in the new parliament, thanks to a requirement of receiving at least 2.5 percent of the vote. Parties that fail to attain this standard not only are excluded from the new parliament, but are ineligible to run in future elections. While new parties may be established, this requirement could reduce the number of candidates running in future contests from the 11,219 who ran this time.

Golkar, long used to being the dominant party in Indonesian politics, came in second with 14.45 percent of the vote, just ahead of the other major contender, former President Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), with 14.03 percent.

Religious-based parties-the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), National Mandate Party (PAN), United Development Party (PPP) and National Awakening Party (PKB)-took the next four positions and around a quarter of the total votes (24.15 percent, compared to the same parties' 33.51 percent in 2004): The PKS barely improved on its 2004 performance, but emerged as the largest of the religious-based parties because of the decline in the votes for the others.

Two new parties, the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and People's Conscience Party (Hanura), both led by ex-military figures (see May/June Washington Report, p. 44), complete the eligible nine parties, with 4.46 and 3.77 percent of the vote respectively.

The outcome shook up plans for the presidential election, due in July, with the possibility of a run-off in September if that election is not conclusive. To put forward a presidential candidate, a party must either win or bring together a coalition representing either 20 percent of parliamentary seats or 25 percent of the votes cast in the parliamentary election. Yudhoyono can fulfill the condition easily, as his party has secured 148 seats (versus 97 in 2004)-more than 26 percent of the total-and can expect the support of most of the religious parties. To avoid appearing over-dependent on the latter, however, he was expected to reach out to potential supporters in the two major rival parties. Yudhoyono has chosen Boediona, governor of the central bank and a reformist, as his vice-presidential running mate.

Golkar had expected a better result. Its chairman, Jusuf Kalla, served as Yudhoyono's vice president, but the relationship was reported to have become increasingly strained. Golkar's leadership had talked about nominating Kalla as its presidential candidate, but with its vote down by a third compared to 2004 and with a smaller parliamentary presence (108 seats), it was not confident about the challenge. Nevertheless, on May 1 Kalla announced his decision to run for president, with former armed forces commander-in-chief Wiranto, leader of Hanura, as his running mate.

Likewise, Megawati Sukarnoputri's chances were dimmed by PDI-P's loss of 4 percent of the vote and 16 parliamentary seats, leaving it with 93 seats. Nevertheless, she announced her candidacy in May.

Almost at the same time as Kalla was declaring his candidacy, it was announced that Golkar, PDI-P, Gerindra and Hanura would form a parliamentary coalition, but decide later on what to do about the presidential contest. A secular bloc this broad might leave Yudhoyono dependent on the parliamentary support of the Muslim parties, but he is likely to try to preserve his room to maneuver by cultivating alliances within the loose coalition.

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