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The Jakarta Post
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Editorial: Election fiasco

  • The Jakarta Post

| Mon, May 11 2009 | 09:44 am

The final official tally of the April 9 parliamentary elections was very much as widely predicted. The Democratic Party (PD) topped, followed by two other centrist parties, Golkar and the PDI-P. Nine political parties in all will take up the 560 seats at the House of Representatives while 29 others were eliminated.

The only surprise – shocking is more apt – to come out of the late Saturday night announcement was that 104 million valid votes represented. Considering that 171 million people were registered, the valid votes counted for only 61 percent of voters. A staggering 67 million people either did not vote, voluntarily or otherwise, or voted but had their ballots invalidated. Excluded from this figure are people who could not vote because they were not on the voter list. We will never know the exact number of disenfranchised voters, needless to say, the number was far too high.

If the number of votes measures the popular support the next House of Representatives enjoys, it gets worse. More than 19 million votes, or 18 percent of the total, were “wasted” because they went to the 29 parties that failed to make it to the House. Effectively, the new House will only enjoy the support of less than 43 percent of the voters. Talk about legitimacy.

Can the next House really claim to represent the interests of the people for the next five years given its low popular support? Will the political parties sign the results of the election nevertheless, knowing that millions of people were disenfranchised through no fault of their own? Should we still proceed with the presidential election on July 8?

Here is a national election that leaves more questions than answers. Let’s hope the Constitutional Court settles these questions as it deals with petitions in the next few days from various people and organizations protesting the final election results. As far as the major political parties are concerned, they will move on to prepare for the July elections, including forming coalitions. With the official results, the real bargaining begins on nominating the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

PD is the only party to have passed the minimum threshold of 20 percent of House seats to earn the right to nominate their candidate, the incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He will still need to form a coalition with other parties, if not to pick a running mate from, at least to beef up his party’s strength in the House. The combination of Golkar and Hanura ensures they have the right to field their candidate, most likely Jusuf Kalla, Yudhoyono’s estranged Vice President. The PDI-P of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri is still working to forge its own coalition.

Political expediency, while important, cannot come at the expense of credibility. These preparations are all well and good to ensure that the nation will have a new democratically elected government in place by mid October. But someone had better come up with the right answer to the big question: How to deal with the fact that millions of people had their constitutional right to vote violated on April 9.

So far, we have only heard the government and the election commission passing the buck. Until someone comes up with a satisfactory answer, or even an apology for the fiasco, we refrain from extending our congratulations to the winners.

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