Factsheet: Indonesia's Election
June 7th, 1999
This article was posted on June 4, 1999.
On the eve of Indonesia's first free parliamentary election since 1955, 48 political parties are jockeying for position (another 93 failed to make the cut). The June 7th election will elect 462 members of Parliament, a large part of the 700-seat assembly that will select the next President and Vice President on November 10.
No party is expected to win a majority, including Golkar, the ruling party of President B. J. Habibie and former President Suharto. Habibie has made significant reforms unimaginable under Suharto's rule—a free press flourishes, political prisoners have been released, East Timor has been offered the opportunity to secede, and truly democratic elections are in progress—but his association with Suharto has indelibly tainted him.
The three other major parties in the election have signed a coalition pact to guarantee Habibie's ouster:
In one sense the election is an exhilarating example of the democractic process at work — for the first time silenced groups are participating openly in Indonesian politics, and for once, the results of the election are not staged and are genuinely unpredictable.
At the same time, however, the fragmentation and factionalism of these flegling political parties may create a government ineffective and lacking direction, which is particularly dangerous in a country fraught with economic catastrophe and rife with ethnic violence and secessionism.