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Indonesian Parties Maneuver As Tallying of Votes Continues

By Keith B. Richburg

Vote counting from Indonesia’s first free election in 44 years continued at an excruciatingly slow pace Thursday. But enough clear trends have emerged, from the small number of returns now in and from the projections of independent monitors, that political party officials and analysts were shifting their attention to the next phase of the complex process -- forming the coalitions that will select the nation’s next president.

What is apparent so far is that the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, will emerge as the dominant party in the new parliament, capturing between 35 and 40 percent of the vote. Golkar, the ruling party of the discredited Suharto government, appears to be heading for second place, with about 20 percent of the vote.

The Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), considered a likely Golkar ally, could come in third place, with about 15 percent of the vote. And a conservative Muslim party, the National Awakening Party, led by Abdurrahman Wahid, should emerge a close fourth.

The National Awakening Party joined in a pre-election coalition with PDI-P, and Wahid is considered a likely governing partner for Megawati.

The showing by Megawati’s party appears much better than expected -- many analysts said before the balloting Monday that PDI-P would emerge with only a third of the votes. Now it appears that the pro-reform parties, if they can stay united, will hold a solid majority in the legislature and can claim to represent the popular will for change. And with at least 15 percentage points’ difference between PDI-P and Golkar, Megawati can also claim that a Golkar-led coalition would not enjoy popular legitimacy.

But as the second-place finisher, Golkar is also expected to try to retain power -- and to keep the incumbent, B.J. Habibie, in the presidential palace -- by cobbling together a minority parliamentary coalition and then relying on the votes of appointed members and the military.