Barring any last-minute snafus in the delivery of ballots across this archipelago of more than 1.9 million square kilometers, Indonesians will go to the polls on Monday for the first of up to three elections over the next five months. This initial election for legislators may be the least important, particularly since the House of Representatives has failed to act on 90 percent of the bills brought before it.
The 22-day official campaign period has not evolved into an orgy of debate over the crises facing the globe's fourth-most-populous nation, which includes more Muslims than any other country (see Indonesia: 24 parties and nothing to celebrate, March 16). Monday's voting, however, will give important clues about how the presidential race will play out. Investors and others should pay close attention.
For starters, only parties that receive 3 percent of the votes in this phase will be eligible to place a presidential candidate on the ballot for voting in July. Leading figures from parties that miss the cutoff may be attractive to rivals, despite their limited popular support, as vice-presidential candidates, to bring regional or political balance to a ticket, or for other reasons.
Things to watch for:
- the combined Muslim vote - PKB (Gus Dur) + PAN (Amien Rais)
- the SARS (sindrom aku rindu Suharto = I miss Suharto) vote - Wiranto + Tutut + Prabowo + Golkar
- the PDIP vote
This is a legislative election. Megawati's ruling PDI-P is likely to see its vote crash precipitously. The real question is if it falls to less than Golkar or if the combined PDI-P/Golkar falls below 50%. If either or both happen it will become almost impossible for Megawati to be re-elected. A party with less than 3% of the popular vote to run a presidential candidate in June. If no-one gets more than 50% in June there will be a runoff in August.
The other issue is the contest for the Golkar nomination where the leading 'lights' are Tanjung Akbar and Wiranto. Wiranto is wanted on international warrants for crimes against humanity in East Timor. I'll try and run another election burst on 5 April, but my Bahasa is not nearly as competent as my Spanish.