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Megawati Begins Re-election Campaign - 2004-05-31

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has started her month-long campaign for re-election. President Megawati has outlined a five-point program for the country in her uphill battle to be returned to office.

President Megawati began her campaign Monday with a rare news conference at which she outlined her ambitious five-point program to regenerate the economy, reduce poverty and improve the health and education systems. She says her program is designed to help the weakest members of society, or what she refers to as the 'small people.'

Mrs. Megawati is fighting for her political life. She is running third of five contenders in the July 5 elections. She is the first to come out with a campaign manifesto, but her rivals - including former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and ex-army chief General Wiranto - have made similar promises.

In April's legislative elections, President Megawati's party garnered 40 percent less of the vote than it did in previous elections five years ago.

The parties that did gain the most of the votes in the April polls were those that stressed the fight against Indonesia's endemic corruption, which has fueled discontent and stunted economic growth.

Mrs. Megawati's program did not specifically address the issue of corruption, but her vice-presidential candidate, Islamic leader Hasyim Muzadi, has said they recognize its importance and would make it a priority if they won the election.

July's polls will mark the first time Indonesians have had a chance to directly elect their president.

Mr. Yudhoyono, Mrs. Megawati's former security minister, is currently leading the race. But pollsters say he does not yet seem to have the 50 percent he would need on July 5 to avoid going to a run off in September.

Most pollsters believe the election is going to be driven more by personalities than by policies. They say that because this is the first time this system has been used to select a president, it is particularly hard to predict.

But they say that that in itself is an achievement that shows how far the country has come in just the six years since the dictator Suharto, when everyone knew the result of every election long in advance.