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Indonesia's Yudhoyono Leading Presidential Vote - 2004-09-20

Unofficial returns from Indonesia's presidential election project that former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has defeated President Megawati Sukarnoputri with more than 60 percent of the vote. The two faced each other in a run-off election Monday, after defeating three other candidates in a preliminary round in July. Two polling organizations are projecting a landslide victory for Mr. Yudhoyono, who resigned as Ms. Megawati's security minister earlier this year to run against her. The retired army general ran as a new face and campaigned on a platform of change to address such problems as security, economic stagnation and corruption.

One of the polling organizations is the Institute for Social and Economic Research, known by its Indonesian initials LP3. Its research director, Mohammad Husain, says his figures were based on returns from 1,300 polling stations around the country and they should not vary much from official returns expected in two weeks.

"We are very confident that this figure will not change very significantly, meaning that it may change in terms of a decimal point, but it will not change, say one percent or two percent," he said.

A second poll sponsored by an Indonesian television network made a similar projection.

President Megawati earlier urged citizens to remain calm and respect the process.

She said if the country remains aware, the vote tabulation can continue safely and peacefully.

Mr. Husain, whose organization also deployed observers to monitor the vote, says early reports indicated the balloting was orderly and fair.

"This election has been conducted peacefully," he said. "And we didn't hear [of] any significant irregularities so far." More than 150 million people were eligible to choose their president by direct vote for the first time. A retired office manager, Sofyan Miin Nur, calls it a historic occasion.

"Today's election is better than the usual election because [it is] the people themselves that elect the president," said Mr. Nur.

Thousands of observers from dozens of domestic and international organizations fanned out across the country to monitor the balloting. They are to present their reports in the coming days.