President’s Party Ahead in Polls

JAKARTA ~ President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party is leading its rivals ahead of elections next month, an analyst said on Thursday, quoting a new opinion poll.

The party, which the liberal ex-general founded in 2001, is on target to become the largest in the country after the April 9 general elections, according to the joint poll by four survey institutes released this week.

The Democrats will sweep aside the more established Golkar and Democratic Party of Struggle, said analyst Sunny Tanuwidjaja of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies which co-produced the survey.

“The popularity of the Democratic Party has been lifted thanks to Yudhoyono’s status. His government is considered successful following his popular move to cut fuel prices,” he said.

The Democratic Party won 21.52 percent support in the survey, ahead of the opposition Democratic Party of Struggle of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, which won 15.51 percent.

The largest party in Yudhyono’s parliamentary coalition, Golkar, won just 14.27 percent support.

Five other parties – including those that claim to base their policies on Islamic teachings – scored less than five percent.

“Most of the Islamic parties are busy with internal conflicts that have contributed to their declining support,” Tanuwidjaja said.

Yudhoyono’s anti-corruption campaign, which has resulted in convictions against a number of senior lawmakers and officials in recent months, had pulled the rug from under the Islamic parties’ claims to be more clean.

“Yudhoyono’s anti-graft campaign appeared to be more real,” Tanuwidjaja said.

He said the Islamic parties’ championing of a new anti-pornography law had also backfired, especially with their criticism of popular folk dances as too erotic.

The Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) had targeted 20 percent of the vote but its officials are now publicly talking about 10 percent at best, and have admitted they need to form a coalition with a nationalist party.

“The party has failed in its campaign to appear as a moderate Islamic party. It’s still considered an extremist conservative party, especially over the (folk dance) issue,” the analyst said.

“This is political suicide as the biggest supporters of the PKS are in West Java where the dance was born.”

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