Whereas the presidential race will feature some very familiar personalities, the parliamentary contests will also introduce fresher faces. In recent elections for provincial governors, voters have spurned established figures. This has convinced the main parties that they will need an infusion of new blood to do well in the parliamentary races: Miss Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) says up to 70% of its candidates will be newcomers.
At first sight the parliamentary elections look like a recipe for confusion. There will be something like 12,000 candidates from 38 parties battling for the 560 seats. This is a big increase on the numbers in 2004 but the next parliament will in fact be less fragmented than the current one. This is mainly because a new rule requires parties to get at least 2.5% of the national vote to win any seats. Of the 17 parties that won seats in 2004 only eight would have met that test.
Furthermore, several mid-sized parties, such as the National Awakening Party of Abdurrahman Wahid (president in 1999-2001), are riven by splits. So the new parliament will be dominated by Golkar, the PDI-P and Mr Yudhoyono’s Democrats–all of which are staunchly secularist–plus the mildly Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
The PKS, like the smaller Islamist parties, has found that moderating its calls for SHARIA and embracing pluralism is the only way to win new votes. It will be the cost of living that dominates the campaign, not theology.