Little on offer in Indonesia's general election

Submitted by Anon on 23 March, 2004 - 8:54

By Harry Glass

The general elections on 5 April will not provide a solution to the problems faced by the Indonesian people because the majority of political parties are rotten, says the People's Democratic Party (PRD) in Indonesia.
The PRD, led by Dita Sari, wanted to stand in the elections as part of the People's United Opposition Party (POPOR), but in October they failed the verification process to be legally registered as a political party.

According to Max Lane, writing recently in the Australian socialist paper Green Left Weekly, there seems to be very little popular interest in the election, and very few new ideas from professional politicians.

Among the elite parties, the largest is the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), headed by current president Megawati Sukharnoputri. It won around 34% of the vote in the last elections in 1999. The PDIP has a strong base among provincial businesspeople and some aspiring national conglomerates.

The Golkar party, which was former dictator Suharto's party, is the second largest in the parliament. In 1999, most of its 23% came from eastern Indonesia and parts of Sumatra. Golkar's support comes from big business, the government bureaucracy and the layer of technocrats in the private sector.

The United Development Party (PPP), the Star and Crescent Party (PBB), the Justice and Welfare Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) are parties based among the stricter Muslims in the towns. Their base includes merchants of the major ports, public servants, business people and professionals.

The PPP scored 11% at the 1999 elections, and its leader Hamzah Haz is the Indonesian vice-president. The PBB got 2% at the last election and the PAN scored 7%. Another Muslim party, the National Awakening Party (PKB), led by Abdurrahman Wahid (president in 1999-2000), won 13% of the vote in the last election.

According to Max Lane, the Justice and Welfare Party (PKS) is the most active of the Muslim parties, with influence among Islamic students on many university campuses and mosques in villages around the capital Jakarta. Although it scored 1.36% in the 1999 elections and is not represented in the current parliament, it may gain representation this time, given the proportional system that requires around 2% to get a seat.

The PKS combines a fundamentalist call for Islamic law with modern forms of organisation. It has also been critical of the influence of the military in politics. It has organised street protests against corruption, and mobilised about 300,000 people against the attack on Iraq.

There are 19 other parties that are not currently represented in parliament. The Social Democratic Labour Party (PBSD) has been the long term project of Muchtar Pakpahan, who was prominent as a labour movement personality in the 1990s, having been jailed by Suharto for opposing the regime's suppression of trade union rights. Pakpahan is also chair of one of the larger unions in Indonesia, the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI). The PBSD has been campaigning to depict itself as the party of workers and has recruited a number of union officials. The PBSD is presenting a moderate social democratic critique of neoliberal policies. It does not have a large profile.

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