Almost two months after voting for the national assembly took place, Indonesia has its election results. Wednesday, President B.J. Habibie endorsed the final tally of the national election commission over the objections of several small parties who claimed ballot fraud. The holdouts represented less than 7 percent of the total vote, but there were enough of them to deny the commission the two-thirds majority it needed to validate the results. Allegedly, the dissenters were willing to trade their signatures for seats in the assembly. That attempt to manipulate the outcome failed, but the real horse-trading in Indonesia is only beginning.
The results are no surprise. Ms. Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) came out on top with 33.7 percent of the vote and the ruling Golkar party polled 22 percent. By one estimate, PDI-P will claim about 154 seats in the new assembly, while Golkar will have 120. The victory for Ms. Megawati’s party does not guarantee her the presidency, a post to be filled by the assembly. Since a coalition will have to govern, back-room deal-making, rather than the June ballot, is going to determine who claims the top position.
We, along with the rest of the world, hope that the Indonesian people’s will is respected. In principle, that means Ms. Megawati should be either president or vice president (preferably the former), and the PDI-P should have a leading role in the future assembly. The largest party should not be marginalized.
The old order argues that Indonesia needs stability and continuity, implying that Ms. Megawati represents too much of a break with the past and is too unknown a quantity to lead the country through a difficult transition period. They are right about one thing: Indonesia desperately needs stability. But ignoring one-third of the electorate is not the way to achieve it. Respect for the law and the popular will is the easiest way to get Indonesia back on track. That is a lesson Ms. Megawati seems to have learned, if her recent comments to abide by the results of the East Timor referendum are any measure. Her opponents would do well to follow her example.
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