Finally, the long awaited list has been announced. The Indonesian Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – General Elections Commission, KPU) has just announced the prospective political parties that will be eligible for April 2009 general elections. If the 2004 general elections had 21 contestants, the 2009 elections will have 34 political parties that will fight for seats in the Indonesian parliament and the nomination of the next Indonesian president. 16 of them are political parties that won at least a seat in the Indonesian parliament in 2004 elections while the remaining parties are new parties that have passed the long verification process conducted by the KPU.
It should be noted here that only party or coalition of parties that have at least 15 percent of the seats in the parliament can field a candidate for presidency. Thus the competition for 2009 elections will be tight.
Even though big names like Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and Golkar Party will dominate the contest, but there are resurgent players that might disrupt the party. The Islamist party, Welfare and Justice Party (PKS), the most successful cadre party in Indonesia, continues its good showing in local elections and will likely to continue the trend up until 2009 general elections. Their latest achievement in local elections was by beating candidates fielded by PDI-P as well as Golkar Party by a good margin in West Nusa Tenggara gubernatorial elections. Tracking poll conducted by different pollsters support this trend.
Besides, new players like Partai Hanura, led by ex-army chief of staff, retired general Wiranto, and Gerindra Party, led by another ex-army general Prabowo Soebijanto, should be players to watch. Their vigorous campaign and abundant source of fund should become a matter of concern by other parties.
Indonesian transition to democracy has been an up and down journey. Scenes like impeachment of a president, arrests of corrupt lawmakers, riots over fuel price hike, problems of electricity supply have endlessly marked this process. Health problems like malnutrition and suspected bird flu infection in several regions are other matters of concern that needs to be addressed. In addition, unemployment and lack of employment opportunities need be sorted out by the government.
But one thing should be noted here that Indonesia’s transition process to democracy is something inevitable. Indonesian people understand that their future lies in the working of a democracy. Ten years is such a short period to build a real democracy in such a diverse country like Indonesia. However, with the increasing maturity of Indonesian young guns, this transition process will surely find its way to its destination. The next general elections will be crucial for the future of Indonesian democracy and Indonesia as a nation. The world is watching closely, how democracy and Islam, the second largest religion in the world and the religion of the majority population in Indonesia, work hand in hand in Indonesia to achieve a common goal of creating a welfare society.