Golkar declared election winner

But the party faces an uphill battle in the country’s first direct presidential poll on July 5.

After years in the doldrums, Golkar vaulted back into the spotlight yesterday when it was declared the winner of Indonesia’s general election.

Now, the party that held the reins of power for 30 years under former president Suharto faces a tougher challenge – putting together a winning ticket for the July 5 presidential race.

But yesterday, Golkar leaders were too busy celebrating a return to parliamentary majority after its defeat in 1999 to think about that.

An elated Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung told The Straits Times: ‘Five years ago, people threw stones at the party. Many hated us for being linked to Suharto. Today, we are seen as a party that can solve the country’s problems. We won because of our new image and a lot of hard work by our cadres.’

The General Elections Commission announced yesterday that Golkar had pulled in 21.58 per cent of the 124.4 million votes counted in the April 5 election. It won 128 seats in the 550-member Parliament, a gain of eight from the 1999 election.

Its closest rivals, the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) led by President Megawati Sukarnoputri, plunged to 18.53 per cent of the votes. That was a drop of about 15 percentage points from its election victory five years ago.

The PDI-P won just 109 seats in the legislature, a substantial drop from 153.

Otherwise, the broad political map remained little changed.

Placed third was the National Awakening Party (PKB) founded by former president Abdurrahman Wahid, with 10.57 per cent.

The main Islamic party, the United Development Party (PPP) of Vice-President Hamzah Haz, came in fourth with 8.15 per cent. The National Mandate Party of National Assembly Speaker Amien Rais won 6.44 per cent.

Overall, support dropped for all the major parties including Golkar, which won 22.7 per cent of the vote in 1999. Observers said that this pointed to one certainty: Indonesians want change.

Picking up some of the voting slack were two new parties. The Democrat Party founded by presidential front-runner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono placed fifth with 7.45 per cent. The Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party took 7.34 per cent.

Although Golkar won the general election, it faces an uphill battle in the country’s first direct presidential election.

Its nominee Wiranto is running out of options for a strong running mate.

His ideal choice would have been Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Hasyim Muzadi. That match would have brought the retired general the blessings of former president Abdurrahman Wahid and almost certainly the support of the NU-linked PKB.

But his hopes of teaming up with Mr Hasyim were dashed when the cleric joined forces with Ms Megawati instead.

That leaves him with little choice but to turn to others in the NU, such as Mr Solahuddin Wahid, Mr Abdurrahman’s younger brother. Even then, there there is no guarantee the PKB will support the retired general.

In addition, Golkar is split on whether to support Mr Wiranto. Publicly, the party presents a united front. Internally, however, the Akbar faction is opposed to backing him for fear of a purge in the party if he becomes president.

Still Golkar cadres are putting up a confident front. Deputy chairman Marzuki Darusman said: ‘Don’t forget we have been in the game of politics a long time, longer than most of our competitors. So don’t rule us out.’

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