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Monday, September 20, 2004

BBC > Indonesia presidential poll

Indonesians are voting in the second and final round of the country's first ever direct presidential elections.
Current President Megawati Sukarnoputri is facing a stiff challenge from former army general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"I do believe, God willing, that I can win this election," he said, as he cast in his vote in his home village near the capital, Jakarta.
Preliminary results are expected late on Monday, but the final tally won't be announced until early October.
Polling stations in the eastern province of Papua were the first of 500,000 polling stations across the vast nation to open.
On the eve of the poll, Ms Megawati urged Indonesians to "show the world that we are a nation that can hold an election in a democratic, secure, orderly and peaceful manner".
The chairman of the General Elections Commission, Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin, also expressed hope that Monday's polls would be "secure and smooth".
There are 500 international monitors in the country to observe the voting.
Security fears have increased in the wake of a bomb attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta on 9 September, which killed nine people.
According to the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta, security measures have now been tightened ahead of the poll.
Democratic step forward
Monday's elections are the final stage of a democratic process that began with a parliamentary poll in April, and continued with the first round of the presidential contest in July.
Mr Yudhoyono won first round
150 million registered voters on 14,000 islands
Previous leaders chosen by the legislature
Winner must tackle regional conflicts and terrorist threat
The July poll narrowed down thefield from five candidates to two - Ms Megawati and her former security minister, Mr Yudhoyono.
Mr Yudhoyono won the first round, with 33.5% of the vote compared with Ms Megawati's 26.6%, and since then he has consistently led opinion polls.
Whoever wins Monday's election, Indonesia's next president will for the first time have a direct public mandate.
For that reason if for no other, this election marks a significant moment in Indonesia's transition to full democracy, our correspondent says.
Personality contest
There appears to be little difference between the two candidates in terms of policy.
Both are promising to boost Indonesia's under-performing economy and root out endemic corruption.
They also agree on taking a tough line towards separatist movements in Aceh and Papua.
Both say they will do all they can to hunt down the militant network which has carried out a series of major bomb attacks in the past two years - in a Bali nightspot, Jakarta's Marriott Hotel and most recently at the Australian embassy.
This contest has been as much about personality as anything else, our correspondent says.
Ms Megawati, often seen as aloof by her critics, has been spending time meeting the public and giving media interviews in an effort to gain ground on her opponent.
Mr Yudhoyono, meanwhile, has promised "effective leadership".
He has drawn strength from his image as a man of integrity, as well as a determined leader in times of crisis.
As security minister, he led the hunt for the perpetrators of the Bali and Jakarta hotel bombings.
Story from BBC NEWS: /pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia -pacific/3670804.stm

Published: 2004/09/20 02:54:40 GMT

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