PDI-P slips, with 2m votes tallied

But it’s still a neck-and-neck race for top spot in Indonesia’s parliamentary election; final result could take a week.

Indonesia’s two biggest parties were running neck-and-neck for top spot yesterday, with the lead switching between them as vote counting continued after the country’s parliamentary election.

With almost two million votes, of an estimated 147 million, tallied, Golkar had almost 19 per cent, just a percentage point above President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P).

The PDI-P lost a slim lead it held for less than 24 hours amid growing concerns in the party that the results showed a sharp drop in support.

The mood of despondency in the Megawati camp was not helped by the release of the findings of a survey by independent observers which tipped Golkar to win.

The Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and three Indonesian non-governmental organisations had observers at the stations to monitor initial vote tallies after polls closed on Monday.

Golkar won 22.7 per cent of the vote in a sampling of 1,461 of 595,000 polling stations across the sprawling archipelago.

PDI-P was second with 18.8 per cent, a huge drop of 16 percentage points from its election results five years ago.

They were trailed by others getting 10 per cent and below, including the Democrat Party (PD) and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – small parties that made significant gains in urban centres of Java.

Most opinion polls ahead of Monday’s vote showed that Golkar was likely to unseat Ms Megawati’s party as the largest in parliament, although without a majority, as many yearn for the firm leadership and economic growth of the New Order regime.

But these are early days; observers say it could take more than a week for a clear indication of the winner.

Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung, buoyed by information from party officials tracking vote counts around the country, and by the latest national tally, maintained that his party ‘was on course for victory’.

While it was not doing too well in Java, its performance in Indonesia’s most populated island seemed much better than in 1999.

It was also posting strong results in its eastern Indonesia stronghold and outlying areas outside Java. ‘There won’t be any surprises,’ he said. ‘We will win.’

Confidence was also growing in PKS and especially in former security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s PD, which was on course for more than the 3 per cent electoral threshold, and in talks with possible coalition partners.

‘Within one week there will be a new political landscape,’ he declared.

But if Golkar and others were brimming with confidence, the PDI-P was teetering on the edge.

The President, her influential husband Taufik Kiemas and their three children huddled in their residence until the early hours of yesterday to assess the results.

A PDI-P official at the meeting said they were in a state of shock and searching for reasons why the party was doing badly.

The palace had predicted that PDI-P would win half the national votes, even if several party executives warned of a dramatic loss in support.

A study by PDI-P researchers last year indicated that support would drop by at least 9 percentage points. One of them, who huddled with six other members for a late night meeting to analyse the results, said: ‘We saw this coming a long time ago but nothing was done.’

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