Attempt to galvanise anti-Golkar sentiment

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Attempt to galvanise anti-Golkar sentiment

By Max Lane

On May 17 a joint communiqué was signed in Indonesia by the leaders of the three high-profile anti-Golkar political parties. The National Awakening Party's (PKB) Abdurrahman Wahid, the National Mandate Party's (PAN) Amien Rais and the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle's (PDI-S) Megawati Sukarnoputri signed the agreement.

The communiqué was an attempt to present a united front against the regime's Golkar party and the other "status quo" parties. These include the anti-Megawati Indonesian Democratic Party, the Star and Crescent Party and the People's Sovereignty Party. Most of these parties have indicated they will support Habibie for president in the new parliament.

The United Development Party (PPP) has traditionally been associated with Golkar, but on May 21 it signed an agreement with the PAN and the middle-class Muslims' Justice Party, and stated it would not support Habibie.

Some commentators are also including the Indonesian armed forces (ABRI) in the "status quo" camp. ABRI will have 38 members of the House of Representatives, all of whom have a vote in the presidential ballot when the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) meets later in the year. Habibie has yet to announce the 200 appointed MPR members, but they too will be part of the status quo bloc.

The joint communiqué reminded Indonesians that the reform process is not over: "The status quo forces are still blocking us. We must not waste time and allow these forces to buy more time to consolidate their narrow interests ... We affirm our unity in continuing reform and in confronting the anti-reform forces."

The communiqué did not contain specific policies or give any idea of what the three parties mean by reform. The fact that the alliance is limited to these three parties and that it was announced soon after Golkar selected Habibie as its presidential candidate suggests that the Indonesian ruling elite is polarising over who should be the next president. The alliance does not appear to be attempting to galvanise a mass campaign against Golkar.

According to Muhammad Ma'ruf, editor of the People's Democratic Party (PRD) magazine Pembebasan, there is mass sentiment for such a campaign. He told Green Left Weekly that immediately after the alliance's announcement, many PDI-S branches repainted their neighbourhood booths from red to white to show support for a united anti-Golkar campaign.

At the May 19 parade of parties which launched the official campaign period, the Golkar float was attacked and jeered by the watching crowd. "The atmosphere is like it was in May 1998 during the spontaneous support for the Mega-Star-people campaign against Suharto", Ma'ruf said. "But the three parties will not try to mobilise support beyond voting to put them in parliament. They are mainly interested in seats. They are not willing to work with real anti-status quo parties."

The Indonesian media are beginning to publish more opinion poll results. Within the very small samples taken, the PDI-S emerges as the most popular, with 18-20% of the vote. Golkar, the PPP or the PAN usually score second and the PKB third.

The Star and Crescent Party, the People's Sovereignty Party, the Justice Party and the PRD usually score 2-10%. Up to 30% of respondents say they "don't know" who they will vote for.

If current alliances hold firm, the votes between the status quo grouping headed by Golkar and the three-party alliance could be very close. However, nobody knows to what extent the military-backed Golkar machine has held solid in the outlying village areas or how much money Habibie and Golkar are spending in rural areas for vote buying.

As well, nobody knows how solid the PDI-S's traditional constituency and Rais and Wahid's Muslim constituencies are; they have not been tested since the 1955 general election. However, some coherence may be given to the voting pattern by the growing determination to use the elections to say "no" to the old order, represented by Golkar.