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Former General Leading Indonesian Presidential Election - 2004-07-05

Early election returns from Indonesia's presidential election show that former Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken an early lead, with 33 percent of the vote, followed by President Megawati Sukarnoputri and former armed forces chief General Wiranto. Few irregularities were reported, and the balloting was peaceful.

Many voters went early to the polls. They say the balloting was smoother and simpler than in parliamentary elections three months ago.

Printing press operator Fauzi Priyanto, casting his ballot near his home in central Jakarta, says this election is exciting and makes him proud, because for the first time Indonesians could choose their president directly.

"I want the president to fight for the people of Indonesia and in particular their human rights," he says.

A beauty salon operator, Andi Ismi Granti, notes that Indonesia's economy is still devastated six years after the Asian financial crisis. This, she says, must be addressed. "I think the most important thing, first, is to give employment to the people who got fired," she says. "And second is for the education system."

Ms. Granti says school facilities must be upgraded and teachers must receive better training and pay.

Her neighbor, Juhariyah, a domestic worker, says the high cost of living is a major concern. "I'm looking for a good candidate, who can give cheaper prices."

Retired police officer, Edy Sarahmarjuki, says he is voting for the former security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, because he speaks for all classes of society. But he hopes the next president will focus on the poor.

"The next president should prioritize the low economic class [of] people because we need schools. We need employment," he says. "And we need to be independent."

In the working class district of Manggaray, vendor Sugip Sugiarti says she is voting for President Megawati Sukarnoputri. "I like her because she helps and understands the poor."

Ms. Sugiarti says the next most important thing is for there to be peace, no riots or social unrest.

Thousands of international election monitors are reporting the voting has been peaceful and orderly. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, one of those monitors, had high praise for Indonesia.

"This is a wonderful transition from authoritarian rule to pure democratic rule in just six years," says Mr. Carter.

Official returns from Monday's vote are not expected for several weeks, but an unofficial tally is to be released within days. To win, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote or face the runner-up in a runoff election in September.