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NEWS UPDATES 5 July 2009

Indonesia Elections: Yudhoyono holds the aces

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Indonesians will vote in presidential elections on Wednesday with opinion polls showing incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono holding all the aces despite criticism of his market-friendly economic policies, reported AFP.

The ex-general is hoping to win a clear majority and avoid a run-off in September after his centrist Democratic Party tripled its vote in April's general elections to become the largest party in parliament.

Yudhoyono, known in Indonesia by his initials, SBY, won a landslide victory over Democratic Party of Struggle leader and ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri to become the country's first directly elected head of state in 2004.

If the 59-year-old wins he will be the first president to serve consecutive terms in the 'Reformasi' era of democratic transition that began with the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

“In theory, the significance of this election is in the context of our efforts to consolidate democracy,” Indonesian Institute of Sciences political analyst Ikrar Nusa Bhakti said.

“In practice, it's a battle of egos.” Trailing the president in most opinion polls is Ms Megawati, the 62-year-old daughter of Indonesia's independence hero, Mr Sukarno, and the sentimental figurehead of the anti-Suharto movement in the late 1990s.

Also making a long-shot bid is Yudhoyono's vice president, Jusuf Kalla, 67, a rich businessman and the wily, wise-cracking chairman of the Golkar party, Suharto's former political vehicle.

Should he win, the Democrats' performance in April gives 'SBY' greater authority to hand-pick his cabinet and make good on promises to stamp out corruption and maintain economic growth.

Highlights of his first term included a peace deal with Acehnese separatists which ended a bitter 30-year conflict, multiple high-profile arrests of corrupt officials and steady economic growth despite the global financial crisis.

But he also came under fire from civil society groups for caving in to calls from hardline Islamists for restrictions on the minority Ahmadiyah sect, and for backing a sweeping anti-pornography law despite broad opposition.


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