Opinion

After elections, politicians
still don't get it

Do you know why Indonesian politics continues to be frustrating and interesting at the same time? You need not look very far. The way some high-ranking party officials responded to quick count results offers a clue: They still don't believe in science or scientific methods!

Worse, they only believe in science if it shows their parties are in the lead. Otherwise, all quick counts are dismissed as pesanan (made to order). This antiscientific approach lingers after the April 2009 legislative elections despite the fact that the results of dozens of past quick counts have been extremely accurate.

On the other hand, it is interesting to observe that despite politicians' public dismissal of quick count results, behind the scenes political maneuvering to form coalitions has begun. And, this maneuvering has been based on the results of quick counts! It is ironic that after dismissing the results of quick counts, the same results are then used as the basis for political moves.

There are two points that can be derived from negative reactions to quick counts displayed by certain politicians. First, they reflect a degree of denial and an inability to admit defeat.

Second, many seem to have forgotten the results of various polls taken in the weeks before the elections, which predicted similar results.

Indeed, the final results of the legislative elections will not be officially released until early next month. However, these results are unlikely to differ much from the quick counts. The people have spoken loud and clear that the Democratic Party is a front-runner, while the second place could go to either the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) or the Golkar Party. And these three national parties will take around 50 percent of the votes.

There is nothing surprising about the results. A survey conducted by CSIS, LPES, UI and LIPI in mid-February predicted the same outcome - as did surveys conducted by Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI) and Lingkaran Survei Indonesia (LSI). Therefore, when the results of quick counts were released, it is hard to understand why some politicians have stubbornly dismissed them. The only plausible explanation is that they just don't get it.

Now, anyone who wants to run for president in the July election should look at the surveys again. It is true that there are still three months for any candidate to prepare themselves. However, if the various polls are any indication of how the elections will play out, it is clear that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's chances of being re-elected are almost unassailable.

It is for this exact reason that Indonesia may face a serious dilemma. On the one hand, as things stand other candidates have a slim chance of defeating Yudhoyono. If they believe in the results of opinion polls, than it is a rational decision not to run against him.

On the other hand, it would be absurd to expect that no one would try to challenge SBY. That would be bad for Indonesia's democracy. I am sure that even SBY himself does not expect this. What would a victory mean if it was achieved without an opponent?

Three possible scenarios can be contemplated here:

First, despite the results of the April 9 elections and her slim chance at winning (according to most surveys), former President Megawati Soekarnoputri will continue to enter the presidential race.

Theoretically, her chances at winning will improve if she picks someone fresh and popular as a VP candidate. But, if she chooses the wrong person, she may face an even a worse defeat. Nevertheless, even if she loses the presidential race, she would save Indonesia's democracy from a major embarrassment of not having anyone to contest the incumbent.

Second, Megawati quits her plan to run, and PDI-P nominates someone else in her place - provided this candidate chooses someone from PDI-P as their running mate. This scenario is not unconceivable and would make the coming elections more interesting. Again, this would also depend on who Megawati picked to replace her.

Third, everyone continues to ignore the results of surveys and enters the presidential race. In this case, it is likely there would be three candidates: SBY, Megawati and Jusuf Kalla. If this becomes a reality, then there may be two rounds of elections, and President SBY would likely be re-elected.

In the meantime, let's hope that the Democratic Party will not be over-confident that its candidate will win the presidential elections and govern effectively without a strong coalition in parliament. The challenge now is how to establish a stable government capable of resolving the various national problems ahead.

The writer is an executive director at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.

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