Indonesia’s PPP wins more votes thanks to PDI

Backing from Megawati supporters boosts count.

THE Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) yesterday made in-roads this election in several areas of Indonesia at the expense of its rival, the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).

PPP deputy chairman Jusuf Syakir told The Straits Times that the latest vote count and reports from party branches indicated that it had improved on its showing in Jakarta, Central and East Java mainly because of the backing it received from supporters of ousted PDI leader Megawati Soekarnoputri.

“The PPP benefited most from the split within the PDI,” he said. The PPP had secured 24,465,343 votes or 23 per cent of the votes so far.

Mr Syakir acknowledged that the PPP had, to a certain extent, increased its votes by default.

He said the party would not have been able to make such in-roads if not for the unofficial alliance between the PPP and Ms Soekarnoputri which many here have termed “Mega-Bintang”.

The PPP’s branch chief in Surakarta, Central Java, Mr Mudrick Sangidoe, was reported to have approached Ms Megawati earlier this month for her approval to allow her supporters to back the PPP, which observers here said she gave.

But he stressed that it also showed that the PPP had appeal across the country and that religion played less of a factor in wining votes than initially thought.

“Many Megawati loyalists are Christians but we won them over throughout Java,” he said.

PDI cadres acknowledged privately that Ms Megawati had a big impact on the vote swing towards the PPP.

As of yesterday, the PDI had secured only 3,187,205 votes or 3 per cent of the total votes counted so far.

“We think Megawati had a hand in our defeat. We underestimated the support she still had with PDI supporters,” said party spokesman Amal Alghozoli.

“The Mega-Bintang phenomenon haunted us during the campaign and the polls.”

There was an air of despondency in the PDI headquarters at Denpasar Raya yesterday as party supporters looked grim and lost as imminent defeat stared at them.

“The party is finished. We are all searching for reasons to explain our poor showing,” said Mr Alghozoli.

He denied that Mr Soerjadi’s leadership of the PDI had anything to do with the poor result, stressing that the party had actually improved its performance in 1987 and 1992 under him.

The PDI chairman has been the target of criticism of Megawati loyalists who are unhappy over the ousting of their leader in a government-backed congress last year.

Mr Soerjadi, meanwhile, expressed concern over the sharp drop in votes for his party.

“If there is no problem with the vote-counting, then the drastic drop in PDI votes is a major cause for concern,” the Antara news agency quoted him as saying yesterday.

He refused to comment on why the PDI had done badly.

Mr Alghozoli said that the party would be doing “some serious soul-searching” in the next few days.

“There are a lot of red faces today,” he said. “We expected to do a lot better.”

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