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Indonesia's Presidential Transition on Hold Until Megawati Concedes Defeat - 2004-10-06

Indonesia has announced the winner of last month's presidential elections, and advisors to President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who lost by a large margin, have said they do not plan to challenge the result. But the transition process has ground to a halt, at least - or so it appears - for another day.

It may be a question of Asian reticence, or it may be Indonesia's inexperience with direct presidential elections. Whatever the reason, the presidential transition in the world's largest Muslim nation has come to a stop while each side waits for the other to speak.

Two days ago, Indonesia's electoral commission announced that incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri had lost by more than 20 percentage points to her former security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Megawati said in a speech that everyone should accept the election results. But she did not formally concede defeat, and Mr. Yudhoyono's advisors say he is hesitant to make his victory speech and get on with the job of appointing new ministers until Mrs. Megawati acknowledges him as the winner.

The election result can still be challenged in the Constitutional Court, but the deadline for that is Thursday, and on Wednesday, the president's advisors said she had no plan to mount a challenge.

Still Mr. Yudhoyono has said nothing. Speculation is that he's waiting for Thursday's deadline to pass. Some commentators have suggested that he is exercising traditional Javanese politeness in waiting for his opponent to speak first. Nobody except those within his immediate circle are sure what his thinking is, and they are not talking. Some suggest Mrs. Megawati, despite all the signs to the contrary, is trying to find some last-ditch way to hang on to power. But Landry Subianto, an analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, points out that this is the first time Indonesia's president has been directly elected, and he believes the reason for the delay is probably less sinister.

"I think this is quite unprecedented for us, especially to have this direct presidential election, and I think the president and the president-elect, they are not very accustomed with the traditions of having this concessional speech, especially for Megawati," said Mr. Subianto.

If either or both of the contenders acknowledge the result of the election publicly, and assuming nothing unexpected happens, Mr. Yudhoyono will be sworn in on October 20.