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Indonesia's President-Elect Calls for National Unity  - 2004-10-09


Indonesia's president-elect, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is calling for national unity, and says he will tackle corruption and revive the economy. It was Mr. Yudhoyono's first major speech since he was formally declared the winner in last month's final round of presidential elections.

Speaking in Indonesian and English, he promised to be a president for all Indonesians, not just those who voted for him.

"Our nation today is standing on the brink of a new era in our history," said Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "This new era contains great promises, but also serious challenges. We must be ready for them. And we [shall] meet this call of history. Let us unite to work together for a better Indonesia."

Mr. Yudhoyono, a former security minister in the government of outgoing President Megawati Sukarnoputri, faces a host of problems, including a languishing economy, endemic corruption and regional insurgencies, problems he said he would make his immediate priority.

"We will review the progress in law enforcement efforts, especially in fighting corruption," he said. "We will immediately take steps to tackle the task of solving regional conflicts. We will start an active drive against corruption. We will undertake immediate measures to stimulate the economy."

Mr. Yudhoyono is due to be sworn in as Indonesia's sixth president on October 20. The composition of his Cabinet, particularly the all-important post of attorney general, has provoked much speculation, but he said he would not announce his Cabinet until the day he takes power.

He even delayed acknowledging his victory for several days, because Mrs. Megawati had not made a clear-cut, formal concession. She still has not done that, but the Constitutional Court on Thursday declared Mr. Yudhoyono the undisputed winner, clearing the way for him to move forward on the transition.

The international community has welcomed the victory, seeing in Mr. Yudhoyono a strong ally in the fight against terrorism, and a pragmatic leader for the world's most-populous Muslim nation.

In turn, Mr. Yudhoyono has gone out of his way to reassure the international community, as evidenced by his decision to give his speech in English, as well as Indonesian.

He has the mandate of more than 60 percent of the voters, and his opposition is disorganized, but he will start his term with the burdens of high public expectations and a parliament he does not control.

Analysts say, if Indonesians heed his call for unity, he could have a real chance to fulfill his goal of creating "a better Indonesia."

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