Democrats set for Indonesia win

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The Independent Online
OPPOSITION parties appeared to have dominated Indonesia's parliamentary election yesterday after a largely peaceful day of voting which ended more than four decades of authoritarian rule. Last night, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) claimed an early lead, although it will be later today before a clear result emerges from across the scattered archipelago.

"The early returns from East Timor, the Moluccas and Irian Jaya are showing sweeping support for PDI-P," a senior party official said. This impression was borne out by visits to polling stations in the capital, Jakarta, where the votes were counted after polling stations closed at 2pm. The results in most places appeared to be dominated by PDI-P, led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, and the National Mandate Party (PAN), led by a Muslim academic, Amien Rais.

As the ballot papers were publicly displayed and the party totals counted, votes for opposition parties were met with loud cheers from large numbers of onlookers.

On the few occasions when a vote was announced for the ruling party, Golkar, there were boos and jeers. In one polling station in east Jakarta, scrutineers apologised to the assembled crowd whenever Golkar gained a vote.

The election was generally peaceful, giving a sharp boost to the Indonesian rupiah - one of the first casualties last year of the country's mounting social and economic crisis. In late Asian trading the rupiah was quoted at about 7,675 to the dollar, up more than 3 per cent.

"There is a good feeling at the polling stations and voting appears to have been fair so far," said Hartmut Schauerte, a member of the German parliament and part of the official European Union monitoring team. "People have been going about this very seriously. It is almost like a ceremony. The question is whether this hope will be fulfilled."

About 130 million people were eligible to vote in the election, which will turn Indonesia into the world's third largest democracy, after India and the United States.

Although most of the voting seemed to go without a hitch there were reports of violence in some areas. In outer Jakarta a number of polling booths were set on fire.

The voting was also thwarted in the province of Aceh onSumatra, where a guerrilla conflict is being fought between the armed forces and Islamic independence fighters. Many of the towns and villages in the province were patrolled by gangs of armed guerrillas in an apparent effort to enforce a boycott of the vote.