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2009 - Legislative Elections

In 2009, national legislative elections were held on April 9 and presidential elections were held in July. They were peaceful and considered free and fair. New electoral rules required that a party win 2.5% of the national vote in order to enter parliament. A total of thirty-eight national and six local (Aceh only) parties contested the 2009 legislative elections. At least 171 million voters registered to vote in these elections. Voter turnout was estimated to be 71% of the electorate. Nine parties won parliamentary seats in the House of Representatives (DPR).

The top three winners were secular nationalist parties: President Yudhoyonos Partai Demokrat, with 20.85% of the vote; Vice President Jusuf Kallas Golkar Party, 14.45%; and former president Megawatis opposition PDI-P party, with 14.03%. The next four largest parties were all Islamic-oriented parties: PKS, PAN (6%), PPP (5.3%), and PKB (4.9%). Only PKS maintained its 2004 vote share (7.88%); the other three declined in popularity. The smallest two parties in Parliament, Gerindra and Hanura, with 4.46 and 3.77% of the vote respectively, were headed by retired Suharto-era army generals Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto (one name only). The 2009 DPR members took their seats October 1.

Also in 2009, the threshold was revised so that only parties or coalitions of parties that gained at least 20% of the House of Representatives (DPR) seats or 25% of the vote in the 2009 national legislative elections would be eligible to nominate a presidential and vice presidential ticket. Partai Demokrat, Golkar, and PDI-P parties, the top winners in the legislative elections, nominated presidential candidates.

Declining support for Islamic-oriented parties in the 09 April 2009 elections was due primarily to the secular views of the 87-90% of Indonesian voters who are Muslim. Pre-election polls showed that Indonesians overwhelmingly care more about social and economic issues (78 percent) versus a religious agenda (0.8 percent). Historically, Islamic parties peaked in the country's first democratic elections of 1955, reaching 44% of the vote, but declined over the years reaching a low of 16 percent in 1971. Islamic parties surged in 1999 elections, with 38.6% of the vote, due to gains by two Muslim-based parties, National Awakening Party (PKB) and National Mandate Party (PAN), two parties which espouse largely secular platforms and helped to lead the democratic "reformasi" movement. Dramatic gains by Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in 2004 kept Islamic party support at 38.5%. Still, PKS did well that year on a platform of clean government and social welfare, rather than Islamic values.

Thus, the electoral support for Islamic-based parties was weak. In fact, PKB and PAN were reluctant to identify themselves as Islamic and the issues they promote were secular in nature. Excluding vote for these two parties and counting only the support for parties with a more Islamic agenda, electoral strength of Islamic parties dropped to only 13-14% of the vote in 2009. Besides the practical, secular nature of Indonesian people, there were a number of other factors affecting the decline in popularity of the Islamic-oriented parties: internal divisions, corruption and policies outside the mainstream.

Indonesia's Islamic-oriented parties--PAN, PKB, United Development Party (PPP), Star Reform Party (PBR), Crescent Star Party (PBB), and National Sun Party (PMB)--all lost support during April 9 parliamentary elections, the one exception being the largest Islamic-oriented party PKS, which gained some ground over 2004. Still, PKS' 8.3 percent was a big disappointment to party leaders, which at one point a year ago hoped to get 20 percent of the vote; most observers projected PKS to get 12-15%. In fact, three of the parties (PBR, PBB, PMB) appear unlikely to make the parliamentary threshold of 2.5 percent--which means they would not hold seats in parliament.




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