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NEWS UPDATES 3 June 2009

Economy takes centre stage in Indonesia's presidential campaigns

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With the economy being the main issue, Indonesia launched campaigning on Tuesday for a presidential election, Reuters reported.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is currently a clear favourite to win a second term in the July 8 election, faces challenges from Vice President Jusuf Kalla and opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Southeast Asia's largest economy has managed to avoid recession during the global downturn, unlike some more export-reliant neighbours, but key challenges remain such as fixing shoddy infrastructure, boosting investment and reforming a bloated bureaucracy.

Yudhoyono has presided over one of Indonesia's best economic performances, with economic growth topping 6 percent in the last few years, despite forecasts of a slowdown this year. A second term for the president is regarded as the most investor-friendly outcome.

Markets have widely reflected a Yudhoyono win, helping make the rupiah the best performing currency in Asia this year and drive up the main stock index .JKSE more than 40 percent.

He has picked respected technocrat and former Central Bank Governor Boediono as his running mate, stressing the need for an experienced economic hand to help steer the economy. But the choice has been attacked by some opponents who accuse Boediono of being too pro-market and close to foreign business interests.

Former President Megawati favours nationalist policies and a tougher line with foreign investors. Not known for her grasp of economic issues, she has said she would delegate many economic powers to her running mate, former general Prabowo Subianto.

Investors are unlikely to favour a win by Megawati, particularly given her lacklustre performance in managing the economy and tackling graft when she was president from 2001 to 2004.

Jusuf Kalla, a former businessman, and his vice presidential running mate Wiranto, a retired general, also favour nationalistic economic policies and taking a tougher line with foreign investors.

But there are concerns that the pairing would be unlikely to tackle much-needed reforms such overhauling the civil service.


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