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 10 Apr 2009

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Indonesia: Yudhoyono's party seen leading the election race

An Indonesian party that backs President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is likely to win the country's parliamentary elections held Thursday, but may need a coalition with other parties as it did not gain enough votes according to a national quick count, reported Kyodo news agency.

"From tomorrow, we are going to build more intensive political communication (with other parties)," Yudhoyono told a press conference. "In the next few days, the political dynamics will be more interesting," he added.

The quick count, using random samples from 2,000 polling stations in the country's 33 provinces, showed that the Democrat Party gained about 20 percent of the popular vote.

It was followed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDI-P headed by Yudhoyono's predecessor Megawati Sukarnoputri and the Golkar Party, which got the most votes in the 2004 legislative elections and was the political vehicle of the late strongman Suharto before he was deposed.

In the quick count, Golkar and PDI-P got about 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. Which will be No. 2 is too early to tell. Held by the Indonesian Survey Circle pollster, the quick count results confirmed the three parties will dominate the parliament. Quick counts by other pollsters showed almost similar results.

The official tally will not be released until 2 p.m. Friday, the General Election Commission said. According to the quick count, six other parties are likely to get less than 8 percent of the vote, but can cross the 2.5 percent threshold they need to gain a seat in the parliament.

Among such parties is the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party, which grabbed a surprising 7.34 percent of the vote in the 2004 election for its vocal support of Palestine.

Many political analysts had earlier predicted a setback in the latest election following its casting of the late Suharto as a "national hero" that sparked a slew of protests. But the quick count results showed the contrary.

But the quick poll found the party gained about 7.8 percent, a slight increase from the previous election. The Great Indonesian Movement Party, known as Gerindra, headed by Suharto's former son-in-law Prabowo Subianto, a former army general with an abysmal human rights record, had been tipped by political analysts as the likely biggest winner among new parties.

Some 171 million eligible voters out of the nation's population of 232 million across the vast archipelago are believed to have cast their ballots in the Thursday parliamentary elections.

The actual turnout, however, is not immediately known. The results of the elections will determine if Yudhoyono can gain enough support to seek a second term in office in the July presidential election.

If his party fails to get enough seats in the parliament as required by law, Yudhoyono may need to form a coalition with other parties to enable him to run again for presidency.

Under current election law, only political parties or a coalition of parties that have won 25 percent of nationally valid votes, or hold a fifth of the seats in the parliament, have the right to nominate presidential candidates.

Calculating the electoral seats is very complicated. Because ridings have different numbers of eligible voters, the percentage of the popular vote won does not automatically translate into a proportional number of parliamentary seats won.

Winning a seat in a populous region of Java, for example, requires as many as four times the votes as winning a seat in a remoter area of the vast Indonesian archipelago.





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