More than 60 political parties were officially registered at the Indonesian General Election Commission (KPU) on the closing registration date Tuesday to mark further the countdown to the 2009 elections.
KPU member Andi Nurpati said Tuesday 66 parties have submitted their applications, but the commission's head Abdul Hafiz Anshary put the figure at 61.
"According to the latest information, there are 61 parties that have registered to KPU," Anshary said.
The task of holding elections in the sprawling archipelago is huge and massive, but before that the commission must deal with another daunting task of selecting eligible parties in the race for the 550-member House of Representatives and regional legislative councils.
To join the parliamentary election, a party must have provincial chapters in at least two-thirds of Indonesia's 33 provinces, and branch offices in at least two-thirds of cities/districts in those provinces, with minimum membership of 1,000 in every district.
It means that the KPU must verify data of millions of people during the two-month selection process.
However, this procedure doesn't apply to the 2004 contestants who won the House seats, thus granting them automatic qualification although they still have to submit applications.
They include, among others, 2004 winner Golkar Party with 128 seats in the House, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle/PDI-P (109 seats), the United Development Party/PPP (58), President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's the Democratic Party (57), the National Mandate Party/PAN (52), the National Awakening Party/PKB (52) and the Muslim-based Social Justice Party (45).
To make things more complicated, several parties have split into dual leaderships due to internal conflicts but already registered to the KPU with the same name.
The most recent case was the notorious spat inside PKB that caused a headache to the KPU.
PKB founder and former president Abdurrahman Wahid has fired chairman Muhaimin Iskandar but the latter defiantly retained his post and registered PKB to the commission with a completely new organization structure.
Wahid's version of PKB led by newly-elected chairman Ali Masykur Musa filed their registration documents later and it's now up to the KPU which PKB is eligible to contest.
The commission ordered parties with dual leaderships to settle the internal conflicts until August, KPU head Anshary said Monday.
"The KPU can grant only one entry to parties with dual leaderships," he said.
There are at least six parties with the same problem as PKB.
The date of the parliamentary election is set on April 5, 2009,but KPU said it's not definite yet.
In the landmark 2004 elections, when the Indonesians for the first time ever directly chose parliament members and the president, the commission approved 24 of 44 registered parties.
With a turnout of more than 124 million voters in the last election, Indonesia is now among the world's largest democracy.
The legislative election will open door to the biggest political event: the presidential election, presumably in July 2009. Only parties with at least 3 percent of the House seats can nominate their own presidential candidates.
Yudhoyono is expected to face head-to-head battle again with PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, whom he beat in a landslide in the 2004 run-off.
Wahid, whose presidency ended midway through his term in 2001 due to impeachment by the parliament, has announced his reelection bid.
The nearly-blind former president didn't contest in 2004 as he failed to pass the KPU medical test that prompted him to lodge a lawsuit and demand 1 trillion rupiah (around 108 million US dollars) in damages.
Former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso also has publicly said he would run for the presidency, but so far without a backing from any major parties.
Retired army general and former military chief Wiranto may take part again to seek compensation from the 2004 election when he fell short of collecting enough votes for the run-off.
But it is Jusuf Kalla who could win the headlines if he decided to give up being Yudhoyono's deputy and ran for the country's number one job himself.
As the chairman of the country's largest party Golkar, all he needs to do to get a place in the presidential race is registering to the KPU.