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Indonesian President Apologizes for Failings of Her Administration - 2004-09-23

Indonesia's president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, appears soundly beaten as vote counting continues from last Monday's presidential elections. In a speech to parliament Thursday, she apologized to the Indonesian people for the shortcomings of her administration.

It is now all but certain that Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has failed in her re-election bid. Her challenger and former Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has won most of the votes cast in last Monday's election.

Mrs. Megawati has not formally admitted defeat, but she addressed parliament Thursday with what sounded like a farewell speech.

She says there are things that remain undone and weaknesses that have not been fixed, and offers her deepest apologies to the Indonesian people.

With more than 50 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Yudhoyono has an unassailable lead of some 64 million out of an estimated 123 million votes cast.

Mrs. Megawati promised voters too late that her administration would tackle Indonesia's endemic corruption, stagnant economy and rising crime. Mr. Yudhoyono, a former four-star general, made the fight against corruption one of his central campaign planks.

Mr. Yudhoyono says ending corruption will be one of his first priorities, but many entrenched political interests are still benefiting from corrupt practices dating back to the era of disgraced president Suharto.

Mr. Yudhoyono faces big problems when he takes over next month. His administration will be operating with a parliament where 80 percent of the members are newcomers.

While Mrs. Megawati brought some stability, terrorism is a problem. Three terrorist incidents in two years, all the suspected work of a regional militant Islamic group called Jemaah Islamiyah, have shaken Indonesia.