Indonesia election count suggests tougher ride for presidential hopeful Jokowi

Indonesia election count suggests tougher ride for presidential hopeful Jokowi
Indonesians cast their votes at a polling station during the legislative election in Jakarta on April 9, 2014.

JAKARTA - Indonesia's likely next leader may have a bumpier-than-expected route to the presidential palace after early counting in Wednesday's parliamentary vote suggested his party will have to cut a deal with other parties to get him there in a July poll.

Early counts by pollsters show that the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) failed to win enough votes to nominate on its own hugely popular Jakarta governor Joko"Jokowi" Widodo for the powerful presidency.

News that PDI-P did not fare as well as opinion polls predicted, even though it was still in front, put pressure on the rupiah in late offshore trading. The prospect of a Jokowi presidency has helped lift both the currency, Asia's best performer this year, and shares.

In another surprise, Islamic parties looked to have picked up more support than expected. Though Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, many analysts thought Islamic parties were on the wane because of graft scandals and the greater popularity of more pluralist parties.

"Parliament is likely to be very fragmented because many parties have gotten a relatively big share of votes, and their bargaining power will be pretty much the same," said Philips Vermonte, political analyst at Jakarta-based think-tank CSIS.

"This will have a big influence on the new president because he'll have to pay attention to the situation in parliament and the many political players there."

A party needs 25 per cent of the national vote, or 20 per cent of seats in parliament, to nominate a presidential candidate on its own. Less than that and the PDI-P will need to form a coalition with one or more of the other 11 parties in Wednesday's election to nominate Jokowi.

After 80 per cent of vote results were compiled by CSIS from 2,000 polling booths across the world's third largest democracy, PDI-P had just 19 per cent of the vote.

The election commission has not released any vote counts. The way seats are apportioned means PDI-P could still end up with enough seats to nominate a presidential candidate without being forced into trade-offs with other parties.

"Now (PDI-P) will have to think harder about building a coalition," said Douglas Ramage, political analyst at Bower Group Asia consultancy. "The disappointing thing for observers and investors who are looking for more certainty is that an unwieldy coalition might not give them that."

But he added: "Far and away Jokowi still the most popular candidate. Some polls still saying he has 40 per cent support. So it's definitely still his (presidential) election to lose." Party officials put on a brave face. "Hopefully ... PDI-P will able to meet target of above 20 per cent, so we can nominate Joko Widodo as presidential candidate," said Puan Maharani, daughter of party chief Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The quick count also showed that the five Islamic parties in the race had won 32 per cent of the vote, up from 29 per cent for the eight such parties that contested the 2009 election.

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