Indonesia voted yesterday in only its third general election since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party tipped to win most seats.
The elections will decide who can run for president in July, when Yudhoyono will seek a second five-year term on the back of his sound economic management and progress in the fight against corruption.
Five people were killed in attacks overnight by suspected pro-independence rebels in eastern Papua Province, but elsewhere in the vast archipelago the vote passed peacefully.
An unofficial tally by the independent Indonesian Survey Institute put the Democrats in front with 18.59 percent of the vote, based on a partial count from 2,100 ballot stations mainly in eastern Indonesia.
Analysts said the tally would change as more votes were counted but so far they were in line with pre-election opinion polls that put the centrist Democrats ahead of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Democratic Party of Struggle and Suharto’s former ruling party, Golkar.
Official results may not be known for days.
Suharto’s resignation amid protests and financial ruin heralded the start of the “Reformasi” era of political change, and yesterday’s vote was seen as a key test for Indonesia’s young democracy.
It will decide who can run for president in the July election, as parties or coalitions must hold 20 percent of seats in the 560-seat lower house or 25 percent of the popular vote to nominate a candidate.
The country’s 171 million eligible voters were asked to choose between thousands of candidates on local, provincial and national levels, across 520,000 polling stations and around 6,000 islands.
Tensions were high in Papua after some 100 suspected separatist guerrillas armed with arrows and bombs attacked a police post.
One of the attackers was shot by police and 11 were arrested.
Elsewhere in Papua, three non-indigenous motorcycle taxi drivers were knifed to death, a girl was killed when a fuel depot was set alight, and police skirmished with suspected rebels along the border with Papua New Guinea.
Voting was peaceful in Aceh Province, where a 30-year separatist conflict ended only four years ago. Several members of the former rebels’ new political party were murdered in the lead-up to the election.