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Cablegate: Strong Candidates Win in Two Major Indonesian Provinces

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PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1677/01 2490848
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050848Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9981
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5356
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2990
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1253
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1222
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2185
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 3962
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4876
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2452
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 3027
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 1100
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 2936
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001677

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP
NSC FOR EPHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KDEM KISL ID
SUBJECT: STRONG CANDIDATES WIN IN TWO MAJOR INDONESIAN PROVINCES

REF: A. JAKARTA 1664
B. JAKARTA 1551
C. JAKARTA 633 AND PREVIOUS

JAKARTA 00001677 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified. Please handle
accordingly. It was jointly drafted with U.S. Consulate Medan.

2. (U) Summary. Reputations for good governance and hard
grassroots campaigning helped gubernatorial candidates gain apparent
victories in successive gubernatorial elections in two southern
Sumatran provinces on September 3 and 4. An unofficial but usually
reliable quick count of the September 3 Lampung Province
gubernatorial elections gave an overwhelming victory to a coalition
led by the nation's second-largest party, Indonesian Democratic
Party of Struggle (PDI-P). In Sumatra's September 4 election, the
nation's biggest party Golkar squeaked out a victory, according to
quick counts. These are important victories for both parties for
building momentum in the lead-up to 2009 national Parliamentary
elections, particularly for Golkar, which has performed abysmally in
gubernatorial elections to date. End Summary.

3. (U) PDI-P notched up an impressive eighth gubernatorial election
victory on September 3, with a landslide victory in Lampung
Province, on the southernmost tip of Sumatra. Retired two-star
general and former Lampung governor Sjachroedin Z.P. and running
mate Umar Said garnered 42 percent of the vote, according to a
normally reliable quick count by a respected public opinion
organization, with a two percent margin of error. PDI-P won easily
on its own strength, easily outdistancing a coalition of Golkar
Party and two major Muslim parties which got only 21 percent of the
vote.

WISE ELECTORATE

4. (U) According to a Lampung University political observer, Ari
Darmastuti, voters chose "wisely" based on real issues, and not
based on candidates' charisma or largesse. According to one public
opinion expert, recent surveys had shown that Sjachroedin/Said's
widespread popularity cut across ethnicities and religions.

5. (U) Sjachroedin had promised to build a bridge across the Sunda
Strait providing a crucial direct transport link with Java island.
He also pledged to provide free public education, better
infrastructure for investors, and to turn Lampung into an
agricultural and bio-ethanol hub. With its population of over 6
million -- who migrated over the years from Java and Bali -- and
rich production of coffee, cocoa and cloves, Lampung is one of
Indonesia's more important provinces.

GOLKAR LIKELY WINNER IN SOUTH SUMATRA

6. (U) In Lampung's neighboring province of South Sumatra, two-term
Regent of Musi Banyu Asin Regency Alex Noerdin apparently defeated
sitting governor of South Sumatra Syahrial Oesman in September 4
local elections, with over 50 percent of the vote, according to
normally reliable quick counts compiled by well-regarded survey
organizations. Several quick counts estimated that Noerdin got 51
to 52 percent of the vote, with Oesman close behind at 47 to 49
percent, with a margin of error of one to two percent. With a
population of 7.3 million, South Sumatra is strategically situated
on the South China Sea shipping lanes and is an important center of
commerce, with a rich plantation sector.

7. (U) Golkar badly needed this victory, having won only one
gubernatorial election (Jakarta governorship) and with few other
local elections victories in its belt. Noerdin was supported by
Golkar, two major Muslim parties - Crescent Moon and Star Party
(PBB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) - as well as President
Yudhoyono's Democrat Party (PD).

8. (U) Noerdin is a popular reform-minded local regent known for
actively supporting social programs including education, and health
care services and sports for the poor, as well as a pro-business

JAKARTA 00001677 002.2 OF 002


policy. Oesman was supported by PDI-P, Prosperous Justice Party
(PKS), Development Union Party (PPP) and a coalition of 12 smaller
parties. Muslim-oriented PKS, which has been on a losing streak
recently following its victories in West Java and North Sumatra (Ref
B), also fared poorly in the Lampung election.

9. (SBU) Syahrial Oesman and Alex Noerdin had waged a hard-fought
campaign. A series of allegations in recent weeks intensified the
rivalry. Oesman has recently been called as a witness in a
corruption investigation involving improper re-zoning of mangrove
swampland to be converted and used for a planned port. He has thus
far refused to testify in the case and it is unclear how far he
himself was involved in the improper re-zoning of the land. Noerdin
used this investigation against Oesman while Oesman countered by
publicizing accusations against Noerdin of an extramarital affair.

10. (SBU) A recent prohibition on the religious group Ahmadiyah's
activities issued September 1 by Acting Governor Mahyuddin may also
have been an attempt to shore up support among Oesman's Islamic
party supporters such as the PKS and PPP (Ref A).

11. (SBU) In a conversation with Consulate Medan on September 5, a
dispirited Oesman indicated he had not conceded and believed that he
will come out ahead once all the votes are counted. Given that much
of his support is in the more rural and remote parts of South
Sumatra, there remains a slight possibility that the current trend
towards Noerdin will reverse.

TAMPERING STILL A CONCERN

12. (SBU) South Sumatra elections are also notorious within Sumatra
for post-election tampering. Syarial Oesman's election as governor
in 2003 was marred by allegations of vote tampering as was the 2003
election of the Mayor of Palembang Eddy Santana, an Oesman partisan.
A member of the South Sumatra five-person election commission was
heard as recently as last Saturday announcing in a hotel lobby near
media (who reported the comments) that Oesman was destined to win
and that Noerdin was a womanizer. As the election commission now
prepares to release an initial vote tally on September 8, the
history of tampering in South Sumatran elections looms large over
the process.

13. (SBU) These two elections bode well for Indonesian democracy in
that the victors campaigned on issues of importance to the
electorate, which reportedly followed the candidates closely and
were enthusiastic about direct elections. The two elections also
mark a rebound for Golkar and further demonstrate PDI-P's strong
grassroots connections. Development of a strong democratic culture
will be crucial to successful national Parliamentary elections
slated for April 2009.

HUME

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