Calls to delay Indonesia's presidential election largely subsided the day before the polls open on July 8, setting the stage for millions of voters to choose their leader for the next five years. In a last-minute decision, the Constitutional Court on Monday ruled that eligible voters not on an official voter list could vote with their national identity cards or passports. The ruling allayed fears that millions of voters would be not allowed to take part in the country's second democratic elections since the 32-year reign of former President Suharto came to an end in 1998.
"This is a small step, but it really is a crucial step in the advancement of democracy here," says Refly Harun, who was not allowed to vote in the country's parliamentary elections in April because his name did not appear on the official voter list and filed the suit at the Constitutional Court. "It basically states that a person's Constitutional right to vote cannot be held hostage to or denied by administrative regulations." Refly, a senior researcher at the Center for Electoral Reform, said the July 6 ruling was not enough to address the many shortcomings of voting procedures in the country but marks "an important advancement in the creation of a more mature system."
Though opposition candidates are still voicing concerns over other sources of potential voter fraud, the nation's attention is now turning to whether the election will be won outright in one round of voting, with the top candidate getting more than 50% of the national vote, or two rounds, should no one meet that threshold. "I think it is very likely that SBY will win in one round," predicts Kevin O'Rourke, author of the Reformasi Weekly political newsletter. "A lot of the complaints we hear now about voter fraud were the same complaints voiced in the April elections and they did not get much traction."
Others are not so sure that SBY, as incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is known, will take 60% or more of the votes, as many polls are projecting. "We know that SBY is doing everything he can to make sure this only goes one round, but we think it will be decided in two," says Fadli Zon, a top aide in the camp of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her running mate ex-general Prawbowo Subianto. "We are happy with the Constitutional Court decision but there are still millions of fictive names on the voter lists that will call into question the legitimacy of the election results."
Members of the Megawati campaign team have not said whether they will take legal action if they fail to reach a second round, nor have supporters of Vice President Jusuf Kalla, trailing in third by many estimates, ruled out legal challenges to the results compiled by the General Election Commission (KPU). "We are not making any accusations now but if later on we have proof of incompetency at the KPU or cheating by any one party we will pursue legal action," says Poempida Hidayatollah, a spokesman for Kalla's team and his running mate ex-general Wiranto. "So far we think the KPU has been incapable and incompetent and they will have to justify all discrepancies we find during and after the election."
Each of the two opposition teams is predicting a runoff between SBY and their candidate and claims to have the data to prove it. Should that happen, a second round of voting would be held in September between the top two candidates. The winner of that election would then take office on October 20 as Indonesia's seventh president since independence in 1945.