Parliamentary elections in the world’s third-largest democracy this week will help determine whether Indonesia’s reform-minded president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will coast into a second term or face a prolonged fight for power.
After weeks of colorful and largely peaceful campaigning, voters across the predominantly Islamic nation of 235 million will cast ballots Thursday for the 560-member legislature.
A party or coalition that wins a fifth of the seats-or 25% of the popular vote-can nominate a candidate to compete in presidential elections on July 8.
But with 38 parties in the running and a huge number of undecided voters, analysts are quick to note there is a lot of room for uncertainty.
“Yudhoyono is the strongest candidate so far, but much is lying on these elections,” said Anies Baswedan, a senior researcher at Indonesian Survey Institute, which released a public opinion poll Monday predicting the president’s Democratic Party would win 26% of the popular vote.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle headed by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri was forecast to come in second with around 14%, and Golkar-the party of the former dictatorship-third with 13%. The survey, based on interviews with 2,486 people, had a margin of error of 2.3%.
Indonesia, a vast tropical archipelago of 17,000 islands, emerged a decade ago from the 32-year Suharto dictatorship.
Yudhoyono, who helped bring stability after Suharto’s fall in 1998, became the first directly elected leader in 2004 and is seeking another five-year term. If no candidate wins a 50% majority, a run-off presidential election will be held on September 8.
Many of the 11,000 candidates vying for seats in the national parliament-and another 1.5 million for seats in provincial and local councils-have similar platforms.
Security-a key campaign issue in 2004-has taken a back seat to the flagging economy and corruption, largely because Indonesia hasn’t been hit by an al-Qaida-linked terrorist attack for almost four-years.