Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Partial results show Megawati losing in former strongholds


President Megawati Sukarnoputri boasted her party would win a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, but partial results available yesterday from last week's polls showed her losing control over many of her former strongholds.

Based on more than half of the estimated 124 million votes counted from the April 5 balloting, Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, called by its Indonesian initials PDIP, stood at 20.36 percent while Golkar, the party of former dictator Suharto, was at 20.40 percent.

Although the count appeared extremely close yesterday, the PDIP was leading in only four provinces, mainly in densely populated Central Java and Bali. Golkar, meanwhile, was ahead of the vote count in 24 other provinces, half of which PDIP swept in 1999 elections.

Observers said although the count could still seesaw until the final tally, the PDIP was expected to lose about a third of the support it won in the 1999 elections, held a year after Suharto was ousted. As a result Golkar could dominate the majority of the seats in parliament.

"Many of the voters are disappointed with Megawati and are `returning home' to Golkar. We are confident of victory," Rully Chairul Azwar, a Golkar spokesman, said.

However, he added that Golkar is not expecting a major win and will also face a tough battle in the presidential elections on July 5.

At a campaign rally last month, Megawati told flag-waving, cheering crowds that she expected to reap at least 60 percent of the vote. The party spent millions of dollars in television advertising and staging huge rallies with famous Indonesian rock bands.

But Indonesians turned their backs on Megawati's party because they were disappointed with her aloof leadership style, her inability to reduce high unemployment or get rid of rampant graft, said political analyst Denny Januar Ali.

"She failed to carry out reforms. No amount of glitter during a campaign could change that. Voters either went back to Golkar or to newer parties in hopes of change," Ali said.

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