2009 election preview: Indonesia

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Indonesia will go to the polls during 2009 for their second direct presidential election and to elect the new Indonesian Parliament. The legislative election will take place on April 9, with the first round of the presidential election in July. In the likely case that no candidate wins a majority, a presidential runoff will be held in September 2009.

Indonesia directly elected its president for the first time in 2004. The system involves a direct vote of all Indonesian citizens, followed by a runoff. The legislature includes a 560-member People’s Representative Council and a 128-member Regional Representative Council, both of which are elected on a provincial basis using proportional representation.

The election in 2004 saw a divided result in the Parliament, with the largest faction, Golkar, winning less than one quarter of the lower house. The sitting President Megawati Sukarnoputri saw her party, Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, come second, followed by a number of other parties, including the Democratic Party, which came fourth with 57 seats.

The presidential election was contested by five candidates. Former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (or SBY) came first with 33.58%, leading over the sitting President with 26.24% and General Wiranto of Golkar with 22.18%. The runoff saw SBY defeat Megawati, with 60.9% of the vote. Between 106-113 million voters voted in the three election rounds.

Thirty-eight parties are contesting the legislative election, from a wide variety of positions, making it hard to predict results. At least thirteen candidates are running for President, including sitting President Yudhoyono, and his two predecessors Megawati and Abdurrahman Wahid. General Wiranto, who came third in 2004, is also considering running.

There has not been a great deal of opinion polling done in Indonesia, although a January 2009 poll put SBY well in front on 43%, with Megawati trailing on 19% and all other candidates on 5% or less. This makes Yudhoyono the clear front-runner to win a second term as President in July and September.

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