Rule of Law

Voters strike blow against corruption

Matthew Moore
The Age (Australia)
April 7, 2008

Three years of Megawati Soekarnoputri’s presidency have delivered plenty of easy money to the ruling elite, but have delivered little or nothing to the unemployed, to parents who must pay bribes to send their children to school and who watch them die when the hospital bill is too high.

Evidence of this discontent with the lack of reform has come loud and clear through the ballot box in the first elections since Mrs Megawati’s PDIP party received a 34 per cent vote in 1999 by promising a future for the country’s poor.

During this campaign, PDIP outspent the other parties by a mile, festooning every town across the country with flags, paying the poor to attend its rallies, wear its T-shirts and smoke its cigarettes, while bombarding them with television advertisements.

But on Monday, in the privacy of the polling booth, more than four out of every 10 of her voters walked away.

They went to the Democrat Party, so new it was unheard of three months ago. And they went to a Prosperous Justice Party, not because it supports sharia or Islamic law, but because it is considered to be clean even by its critics.

And most importantly, they did not return to the Golkar party they used to support out of fear when former president Soeharto was running the place.

Many of them might be hungry, and fondly remember the economic benefits Mr Soeharto delivered them, but they still resent the excesses of his corrupt regime.

Sure, Golkar might have outpolled PDIP but this result is a worst-ever, a big slap in the face, especially for its chairman and presidential hopeful Akbar Tandjung.

He was convicted on bribery charges last year for stealing money meant for the poor but somehow managed to convince Supreme Court judges he was not guilty.

On the evidence of Golkar’s vote, he didn’t manage to convince too many Indonesians of the same thing.

Most of them seem to spit out the word “korupsi” at the mere mention of his name.

This result has thrown the presidential election in July right open.

The Democrat Party leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, must now be considered the standout favourite, not only because his party has come from nowhere but because so many people consider him the cleanest of the candidates.

And on these results, a huge pile of swinging voters will be voting for the least corrupt candidate when the presidential poll comes round in July.

In a country regularly at the top of corruption league tables, that is a very encouraging thing.

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