Indonesia election campaign begins

Candidates swing into public campaign mode in run-up to parliamentary vote next month.

    Some 12,000 candidates will contest more than 600 parliamentary seats in the April vote [Reuters]

    "We can prove to the world that Indonesia is a well-mannered country with standards and integrity."

    Some 170 million Indonesians are eligible to vote and thousands of people are expected to join rallies across the archipelago nation in the run-up to the parliamentary election on April 9.

    The vote will see about 12,000 candidates vying for 128 seats in Indonesia's upper house of parliament and 550 seats in the lower house.

    Long ballot papers

    The large number of candidates means that ballot papers are said to resemble newspapers.

    The election is the third since the fall of the dictatorship of former president Suharto and is being seen as a key step towards cementing the democratic process in Indonesia.

    "We can prove to the world that Indonesia is a well-mannered country with standards and integrity"

    Hafiz Anshary,
    Indonesian National Election Committee

    However, many of the parties have been criticised for failing to spell out their policies on key issues such as the economy, corruption and management of Indonesia's vast natural resources.

    "Almost none of the parties contesting the legislative elections have laid out a comprehensive vision for taking the nation forward, much less a program that identifies priorities they will pursue if elected," The Jakarta Globe newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.

    The main contenders are the Democratic party led by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, and its ally Golkar led by Yusuf Kalla, the country's vice-president.

    The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former president, forms the main opposition.

    Second term

    More than 170 million Indonesians will vote at least twice this year, first in April's parliamentary elections followed by presidential polls in July, which will see Yudhoyono seek a second term on a platform of good governance, social stability and continued economic growth.

    Results of the parliamentary election will determine which parties or alliances can field a candidate for the presidential election on July 8.

    Under new election rules, only parties or coalitions that won 20 per cent of the votes or 25 per cent of the seats can field presidential candidates.

    This year's vote will also be the first in which voters pick specific candidates for respective constituencies.

    Police deployment

    In the past voters could pick a party or an individual, but in practice the party actually decided who got the seats.

    Hundreds of thousands of police are being deployed across the country as authorities step up security for the election campaign.

    Analysts have warned of possible outbreaks of violence in some resource-rich areas such as Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra, which has seen renewed tension between supporters of the military and backers of former rebels.

    There has also been speculation that violence could break out in the province of West Papua, where a long-running secessionist conflict continues to simmer.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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