Golkar expecting fewer votes than PDI-S

But it expects to win enough seats in parliament to form next government because of way the seats are allocated.

THE ruling Golkar party yesterday conceded it was unlikely to overtake the lead being chalked up by the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuanganan (PDI-Struggle), but maintained that it could still emerge with a larger number of seats in Parliament.

Golkar chief Akbar Tandjung told The Straits Times that party projections, based on its count of 20 million votes so far, suggested a “close fight” with Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri’s PDI-Struggle – a pattern likely to remain until the end of official counting.

“It will come down to a small margin of difference between us. PDI-Struggle could get 33 per cent and Golkar 30 per cent,” he said.

A check with Habibie loyalists in the party indicated that they too were bracing for defeat at the hands of Ms Megawati – Golkar’s first in seven general elections held over the past 30 years.

The figures they cited were different from those presented by Mr Akbar, but the margin stood at between 2 and 3 per cent. The armed forces had similar findings.

A military insider, citing intelligence provided by Abri’s territorial and district commands across 27 provinces, said Ms Megawati’s party could get 29 per cent to Golkar’s 27 per cent.

Analysts and diplomats believe Golkar’s assessment was “a rough ballpark figure”, but said the difference with PDI-Struggle could be as wide as 5 to 7 per cent.

But Mr Akbar and other Golkar sources remained confident of victory – and earning the right to form the next, probably coalition, government – because of the way in which votes translate into seats in parliament under the election system. They argued that even though Golkar might secure fewer votes than PDI-Struggle, it could get as many or more seats in parliament, depending on where it won.

A Golkar source close to President B.J. Habibie said: “People are forgetting that this election is not about winning votes. It is about winning seats. We will triumph in the end.”

This would be the first step in coalition building and later, to making up numbers in the 700-member consultative assembly (MPR) that will elect the president in November.

Observers say the system – which allocates more seats in rural areas and districts outside Java – is very much skewed in Golkar’s favour.

It is stronger in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, Sulawesi and parts of eastern Indonesia. Each Golkar vote in these areas delivers more seats than each PDI-Struggle vote in Java, where 60 per cent of Indonesians live.

The starkest example is that between Irian Jaya and Jakarta. The former might have a population of about one million, but a party that wins there sweeps 12 national parliament seats.

However, Jakarta, where the PDI-Struggle is expected to win, also has 12 seats, but a population of 10 million. Some analysts believe that all Golkar needs is 25 per cent of the vote. To determine or win the presidency, a party must control at least 351 seats.

It could gain from regional representatives and MPR members appointed by Dr Habibie and, with seats won from Monday’s poll, Golkar could also join forces with the military and others parties.

The Habibie loyalist said: “Golkar will get what it wants … a Habibie presidency.”

Unofficial tallies here showed Golkar in second place in the vote count, but there was mounting concern and criticism yesterday over the slow pace of counting.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, who is leading a team of election monitors, believed the delay was caused by technical factors.

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