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Ruling party heads toward easy win in Indonesia


Unlike campaign, elections peaceful

May 29, 1997
Web posted at: 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT)

From Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa

In this story:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesia's ruling Golkar had over 90 percent of the vote in the early stages of the ballot count after Thursday's general elections, election officials said.

Out of 2,566,743 votes counted, Golkar had 2,359,200, or 91.9 percent; the Muslim-led United Development Party (PPP) had 160,083 votes, or 6.2 percent; and the Christian-nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) had 47,460, or 1.8 percent. The final count probably will not be available until mid-June.

Traffic was light Thursday on Jakarta's main roads, their outer lanes cordoned off for makeshift polling stations as an estimated 125 million people cast their votes for 425 of the 500 seats of parliament.

The remainder of the seats, reserved for the military, are appointed by President Suharto.

Elections orderly, closely guarded

Suharto, Asia's longest-serving leader, has been in power for 31 years and wields substantial power in forming the government. In addition to choosing the military members of the parliament, he approves or appoints another 500 officials who with the parliament form the People's Consultative Assembly.

This body, Indonesia's electoral college, chooses the next president in March. Suharto is widely expected to be appointed by this body for his seventh term as president.

The voting process was orderly and, with more than 130,000 police and soldiers guarding voters, relatively peaceful. Indonesians go to designated polling places and wait to hear their registration number called. Once his number is called, a voter hands in his registration form. Voters in Jakarta receive two ballots.

With the white ballot, a voter selects a party for provincial officials. The yellow ballot identifies the party desired for parliament. Inside are the logos of the three recognized political parties.

Violence called sign of frustration


In contrast to the actual elections, this year's campaign was especially riotous. Nearly 300 people died in campaign-related violence, among them more than 130 people killed in a mall fire sparked by rioting last Friday. And Wednesday night in East Timor, at least 14 more were killed in a series of armed attacks by suspected Fretilin separatists.

Some say the violence is a sign of frustration with a system that stifles dissent and allows little room for change. Only three parties are permitted to run -- the Muslim-led United Development Party (PPP), the fractured Christian-nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) and the ruling party, Golkar.

Popular figures are discouraged, and in some cases banned, from running -- like Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's founding president. Seen as a rallying point for dissent, she was replaced last year as leader of the PDI.

And while boycotting the vote is allowed, campaigning for a boycott is illegal.

Some reports of vote pressure

Suharto defends Indonesia's tightly controlled political system as essential for rapid economic development and continued political stability.

But one woman who said she would not vote said, "I don't think it makes any difference. I think all of the parties are the same."

There have been numerous reports of pressure to vote for Golkar. For those like Toto, there is no choice. "As a government employee, I have to vote for Golkar," he said.

There is no doubt Golkar will win. The question is by how much -- and whether it will be enough to give the government the credibility it wants.


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