The world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia, is getting ready to vote on Thursday in parliamentary elections seen as crucial to the country’s future economic path.
A forerunner to presidential elections in July, the poll is seen as a test for the government which has vowed to push ahead with a raft of reforms. With more than 170 million voters across some 17,000 islands, the election remains a huge logistical challenge. Polls suggest President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party is favourite to win. Despite criticism that he has failed to tackle corruption, he remains popular with promises of major reform. Lagging behind is the Democratic Party of main opponent and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. She is still suffering a hangover from her three years in power, in which she was criticised for failing to address corruption. In all, some 11,000 candidates representing 38 different parties are running. New rules also mean women make up half of those standing. That is something analyst Hadar Gumay believes could change Indonesia’s political landscape. “Higher female representation in parliament would prioritise issues such as health, education, child care and the economy,” he said. “These issues are often neglected in our male-dominated parliament. Regulations related to those issues are also left behind.” With security an additional concern, police have launched several simulation exercises ahead of the election, saying a quarter of a million officers are ready to ensure it passes off without incident.