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Indonesia voting in first direct presidential poll JAKARTA - Indonesians today began voting in their first direct presidential election, six years after the fall of dictator Suharto. Polls opened first in Papua province in eastern Indonesia, two hours ahead of the capital of Jakarta. Public opinion surveys have shown incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri – daughter of the country’s founding father, Sukarno – trailing behind to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a retired general and former security minister who resigned from her Cabinet months ago to seek her job.
But the surveys also suggest no candidate is likely to gain more than 50% of the votes, meaning there will have to be a runoff election between the top two in the polls in September. “It doesn’t really matter who wins, because the true winner will be democracy,” said Eci Widiwati, 27, as she waited to vote at a booth on the tourist island of Bali near the nightclub district in which 202 people died in terror attacks nearly two years ago.
The election in the world’s largest Muslim nation is a massive enterprise, with more than 155 million eligible voters spread across 13,000 islands and three time zones. Previously, presidents were selected by MPs acting as an electoral college. Three other candidates are also running, including General Wiranto, a former commander of the armed forces indicted by UN prosecutors in East Timor for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in that former Indonesian province in 1999.
Megawati emerged as the country’s most popular politician in the tumultuous days following the ousting in 1998 of Suharto, who had ruled Indonesia since overthrowing her father Sukarno in 1966. Her party won more than a third of the vote in free elections in 1999. But in the past five years, Megawati’s popularity has waned because of her failure to combat corruption or improve the economy, and a perception that she is aloof and indifferent to the concerns of the people.
In contrast, ex-army general Yudhoyono is a polished operator who projects stability and reassurance. The election commission says official results will be available within 10 days.



Posted in Elections @ 05 July 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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