An Indonesian re-run. Counting in the Indonesian parliamentary elections seems to confirm that the forthcoming presidential contest will be between the same two candidates as last time — the incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former President Megawati Soekarnoputri. Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party did best in the parliamentary vote just concluded and he will likely be supported for president by the Golkar Party which came in third in the parliamentary poll.

Poor have less to lose? Words of wisdom from this morning’s Murdoch press:

The chatterati and the twitterati go out to vote. Voting is underway in India and, while ballots will not be counted until after 13 May, the journalist pundits have already noticed one trend: the middle class urban voter stepped out like never before. “Suddenly, the ink on the index finger seems to have replaced the tattoo as the latest fashion statement among the chatterati and the twitterati”, the Times of India reports . The accepted wisdom in the world’s largest democracy long has been that the poor vote, the rich don’t. Yesterday, however, election observers at polling booths in in Hyderabad’s upmarket residential areas dotted by spas and boutiques, such as Jubilee Hills and Banjara Hills, reported a 30% rise in voter turnout in these areas.

As to what this change in behaviour actually means, the newspapers are silent. Indian electoral law prohibits the publication of opinion polls from now until the final vote is cast. With voting spread out over such a long period, presumably the political parties themselves do some private exit polling so they can fine tune their election strategies. Given the prevalence of election betting in a land where bribing cricketers for information is a standard bookmaking practice, we will get an indication of what these show in the Crikey Indian Election Indicator which is based on activity at the Intrade prediction market. This morning the Indicator still has the probability of a Congress Party member ending up heading the government at 46% with the Bhartija Janti Party second pick on 26%.

Heavier penalties for Indonesian crew. Alexander Downer has become another of those retired parliamentarians suffering from no longer being part of the political action, but that does not mean everything he says should be ignored. In an interview on ABC local radio in Canberra this morning, the former Liberal Foreign Minister had one piece of advice that the Labor Government would be wise to follow. Mr Downer recalled that an important part of the Howard Government’s strategy to deter people smuggling was to mount a public information campaign in Indonesian fishing villages warning fishermen of the penalties that would apply to them if they transported illegal immigrants to Australia. Perhaps this time the same kind of information campaign should be backed up with even harsher penalties for the crew of boats doing the smuggling?

Building work going down with worse to come. No joy about the economic outlook in the building activity figures out this morning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. While the trend estimate of the value of total building work done rose 0.1% in the December 2008 quarter, the seasonally adjusted quarterly figure fell 1.6%, to $17,988.6m, following a rise of 0.7% in the September 2008 quarter.

The really bad news came in the figures for new building work commenced during the quarter. In seasonally adjusted terms, the estimate of the total value of building work commenced in the December quarter fell 19.9% following a fall of 7.2% in September. Commencements of new residential buildings fell 15.5%, to $7,526.4m. New house commencements fell 4.8%, to $5,496.5m, while new other residential building fell 35.3%, to $2,029.9m. Alterations and additions fell 4.7%, to $1,432.8m. Non-residential work commenced fell 27.6%, to $5,813.5m.

How things change. From the ABS this morning: