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Indonesian Election Runoff Pits Megawati Against Her Former Security Chief - 2004-07-06


In Indonesia, an independent monitoring group projects that President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will face each other in a runoff presidential election in September. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Jakarta.

The National Democratic Institute based its projections on a statistical sampling of returns from 1,500 polling stations across Indonesia.

While official results are not expected for several days, the NDI. group says the sampling shows that former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono polled one-third of the vote in Monday's presidential vote. President Megawati Sukarnoputri beat out three other rivals for second place, receiving about one-fourth of the votes.

NDI acknowledges, however, that a large number of invalid ballots had caused confusion. The electoral commission has ordered a recount of incorrectly punched ballots - but monitors worry this is not being done properly or at all at many polling stations.

The Deputy Director of the Center for Electoral Reform, Hadar Gumay, says election officials must re-count all the invalidated ballots, or face legal challenges from the candidates.

"They will complain. And what makes it worse, maybe some of them will try to pull their support [for the election] and then the potential [for] conflict will be there," he said.

Turn out was high in the country's first-ever direct presidential elections. But the polling came amid widespread dissatisfaction over economic decline, corruption and instability, despite six years of civilian democracy.

A regional security expert with Australia's Defense Force Academy, Carl Thayer, says whoever becomes president will have to make difficult choices over whether to reward financial backers or forge an effective government.

"The new president has got to thank his or her supporters, but pick effective ministers, set priorities and agenda, and then broker a legislative program in the national legislature," he said.

Professor Thayer says this will pose a considerable challenge because there will be sizable blocks of opposition in the new legislature due to the recent parliamentary elections in which no political party won more than one-fourth of the seats. (signed)

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