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Indonesian Presidential Campaign Ends with Challenger in Strong Position - 2004-09-16


In Indonesia, campaigning is has ended, and the country begins a three-day reflection period prior to Monday's presidential run-off election. Public-opinion polls show President Megawati Sukarnoputri is trailing her former security minister, but that she has gained some support in recent weeks.

Presidential candidates Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spent the final day of the campaign meeting select groups of supporters, and appealing for votes through the mass media.

They emerged from a field of five candidates during the first round of the presidential elections in July.

Ms. Megawati is campaigning on her experience and leadership during her three-year tenure as president. Mr. Yudhoyono, her former security minister, is campaigning on a platform of change, seeking to attract voters unhappy with economic stagnation and political cronyism.

Several hundred members of Coalition of People for Change, a group supporting the challenger staged a rally in central Jakarta.

The supporters chanted and sang songs for an hour, before dispersing peacefully.

Ms. Megawati's supporters also gathered at a nearby square, where they heard the president call for a peaceful vote on Monday. She praised the public for its restraint after a terrorist bombing last week killed nine Indonesians in front of the Australian Embassy.

The bombing, the third major attack in Indonesia in two years, brought angry condemnations, but public opinion polls say it will not significantly sway voters' choice for president.

In Indonesia, campaigning is has ended, and the country begins a three-day reflection period prior to Monday's presidential run-off election. Public-opinion polls show President Megawati Sukarnoputri is trailing her former security minister, but that she has gained some support in recent weeks.

Presidential candidates Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spent the final day of the campaign meeting select groups of supporters, and appealing for votes through the mass media.

They emerged from a field of five candidates during the first round of the presidential elections in July.

Ms. Megawati is campaigning on her experience and leadership during her three-year tenure as president. Mr. Yudhoyono, her former security minister, is campaigning on a platform of change, seeking to attract voters unhappy with economic stagnation and political cronyism.

Several hundred members of Coalition of People for Change, a group supporting the challenger staged a rally in central Jakarta.

The supporters chanted and sang songs for an hour, before dispersing peacefully.

Ms. Megawati's supporters also gathered at a nearby square, where they heard the president call for a peaceful vote on Monday. She praised the public for its restraint after a terrorist bombing last week killed nine Indonesians in front of the Australian Embassy.

The bombing, the third major attack in Indonesia in two years, brought angry condemnations, but public opinion polls say it will not significantly sway voters' choice for president.

The head of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Alan Wall, says less than one percent of the people polled cited terrorism as a major concern, well below such economic issues as jobs, prices and official corruption.

"I would not expect that the bombing would substantially raise the profile of the security issues to the point that they challenge the economic ones," he said.

In his group's final poll before the vote, Mr. Wall said 61 percent said they favored Mr. Yudhoyono, while 29 percent said they would vote for Ms. Megawati. But polls also show that Ms. Megawati has gained several percentage points in the past few weeks. The Megawati campaign says its polls show the president leading by a wide margin.

Mr. Wall also notes that a significant portion of those polled would not say whom they support, and this adds a measure of uncertainty to the race.

"There is a fair bit of volatility in the electorate, and maybe 25 percent of the people are not making up their minds until the week before the election," he said.

Official results are not expected for several weeks, but a number of groups say they will provide unofficial returns, based on a statistical sampling of voting patterns within a few days of the vote.

The head of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Alan Wall, says less than one percent of the people polled cited terrorism as a major concern, well below such economic issues as jobs, prices and official corruption.

"I would not expect that the bombing would substantially raise the profile of the security issues to the point that they challenge the economic ones," he said.

In his group's final poll before the vote, Mr. Wall said 61 percent said they favored Mr. Yudhoyono, while 29 percent said they would vote for Ms. Megawati. But polls also show that Ms. Megawati has gained several percentage points in the past few weeks. The Megawati campaign says its polls show the president leading by a wide margin.

Mr. Wall also notes that a significant portion of those polled would not say whom they support, and this adds a measure of uncertainty to the race.

"There is a fair bit of volatility in the electorate, and maybe 25 percent of the people are not making up their minds until the week before the election," he said.

Official results are not expected for several weeks, but a number of groups say they will provide unofficial returns, based on a statistical sampling of voting patterns within a few days of the vote.

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