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Former general expected to win presidential election JAKARTA - A former general, who has promised to uphold civilian rule, appears to have easily defeated the incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri in Indonesia’s presidential election today, according to a nationwide survey of votes. Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was expected to win 61 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Ms. Megawati in the runoff election, according to the survey by the Washington based National Democratic Institute.
“There could be a shift of a couple of percentage points, but the count is pretty stable,” said Paul Rowland, the executive director of the Institute here in Indonesia. The survey, called a “quick count,” is based on votes cast at 2,000 polling places throughout the archipelago nation. Gen. Yudhoyono, 55, would become Indonesia’s sixth president since independence in 1945, and the fourth leader since the fall of the authoritarian leader, Gen. Suharto in 1998.
Today’s voting, which proceeded in a well organized and peaceful manner, was the final round in the first direct balloting for president in the world’s most populous Muslim country. The results indicated that Indonesians were yearning for change after three years of lackluster leadership from Ms. Megawati, who presided over an anemic economy and three terror attacks by a homegrown radical Islamic group. Gen. Yudhoyono presented himself as a man of competence who could set things right, though he gave few details of precisely what he would do.
He pledged to continue the civilian rule that was established after Suharto’s ouster, and was viewed as more the reformer than Ms. Megawati, who represented status quo politics. The Bush administration, particularly Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who was ambassador to Indonesia in the late 1980’s, has argued that the Indonesian elections demonstrate one of their central tenets: that Islam and democracy are compatible.
During the Suharto era, Gen. Yudhoyono was sent to the United States twice for military training, and American officials said they hoped lessons he learned there would infuse his administration. The United States did not publicly express its preference in the election but Washington officials made clear that they believed the general had a better grasp of how to control Jemaah Islamiyah, the radical Islamic group held responsible for the three terror attacks.
During the campaign, Gen. Yudhoyono suggested he would curb rampant corruption, create jobs and improve security. But his precise plans remained unclear. Those who know him describe him as cautious. “He’s a cautious reformer,” said Harold Crouch, an Australian expert on the Indonesian military. An estimated 150 million Indonesians were registered to vote. Thousands of domestic and foreign observers watched the polling from Aceh in the northwest to Irian Jaya in the east.
They reported few disruptions, though Gen. Yudhoyono’s camp said they would be especially watchful for possible fraud as the ballot boxes were moved from the polling stations to collection points at the sub-district level. Gen. Yudhoyono suggested the possibility of fraud when he went to vote this morning at his home in Bogor, just outside Jakarta. “With the assumption there is no violation in the counting of the ballots, I do believe, God willing, I could win this election,” the general said.
Here in Jakarta much of the voting was completed by 11 am. Polls closed at 1 p.m. and less than an hour later the results were known at some polling places. At one voting place in Kebonkacang, a working class area in the city center, Gen. Yudhoyono received 137 votes and Ms. Megawati 39 votes. Those who had voted for Ms. Megawati seemed quite conciliatory. “I hope SBY will fulfill his promise to the people,” said Ceisar Saragih, 27, using the popular acronym for the former general. “I hope he does not pressure people with his military stick.”
Another Megawati voter, Joni Tampubolon, 53, said he worried that Gen. Yudhoyono might bring back military rule. “We’re still learning democracy,” said Mr. Tampubolon. “As long as he continues democracy and is not like Suharto, it’s O.K. The Indonesian Election Commission trained hundreds of thousands of election workers to man the polling stations, and the political campaigns trained observers to watch out for their interests as voting got underway.
For many of the election day workers, helping give voters the ballots and ticking off names on the register proved a rewarding way to promote the new democracy. “I have to be involved,” said Rudi Halim, 25, who usually works with his father at the family store but this morning was wearing the bright orange vest of an official election worker. “It’s an obligation of being a citizen.” Gen. Yudhoyono won a first round of the election on July 5. But he failed to win more than 50 percent against Ms. Megawati, and three other candidates.
His strong showing in today’s election will likely spell a sea change in Indonesian politics. The general’s political rise was swift – he only left Ms. Megawati’s cabinet, where he had served as Minister for Security, in March. His entrance into the presidential race was predicated on the sense that he did not need a major political party. The gamble of running with the backing of only a small new party, the Democratic Party, apparently has worked.
One of the outcomes of today’s polling is a likely housecleaning of Golkar, the party that Suharto created in the 1960’s and developed into the political machine that kept him in power.

Posted in Elections @ 20 September 2004 00:07 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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