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Yudhoyono sweeps the board

The Age

Thursday July 9, 2009

TOM ALLARD, INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT, JAKARTA

INCUMBENT Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was on course for a thumping victory in Indonesia's presidential elections, as voters yesterday overwhelming endorsed another five years of his steady, reformist policies.Across the country's archipelago, exit polls and "quick counts" showed voters heavily backed Mr Yudhoyono, the first time they have re-elected a leader since the country's emergence as a democracy 11 years ago.In the troubled region of West Papua, he got more than 70 per cent of votes. In Aceh, where a long-running civil war ended in 2005, support for the President and his running mate, the former central banker Boediono, was at more than 90 per cent.Densely populated Java also swung emphatically behind the Indonesian leader.All up, the quick counts showed Mr Yudhoyono secured 60 per cent of votes, compared to 27 per cent for Megawati Sukarnoputri and 13 per cent for Golkar party leader Jusuf Kalla.If confirmed, that level of support is easily enough for Mr Yudhoyono to win the poll in one round. To do so, he needs 50 per cent of the overall vote, plus support of 20 per cent or more of voters in at least 17 of Indonesia's 34 provinces.Mr Yudhoyono greeted ecstatic supporters late yesterday and said the results "thank God, show the success of my friends in the struggle".He did not claim victory, however, saying, "We will just wait until the Election Commission completes its counting."In Kampung Bali, a poor central Jakarta neighbourhood nestled behind glittering five-star hotels and shopping malls, most of those surveyed by The Age said they had voted for Mr Yudhoyono, universally known by his initials SBY."SBY is honest and a man with dignity," said security guard Muhammad Isa, clutching his young daughter at a makeshift polling station."I like everything he did, especially corruption eradication. Besides, it is easier for me to borrow money to start a little business of my own. I sell hand-phone vouchers and make motorcycle repairs."While the global financial crisis has battered Indonesia's neighbours, its financial system and economy has emerged almost unscathed.Falling petrol prices, rising real incomes and cash hand-outs to Indonesia's poor have underpinned a surge in consumer sentiment, which is at a four-year high.Further evidence of the optimism that has swept Mr Yudhoyono to an apparent victory is the 50 per cent rise in share prices this year and the fortunes of the Indonesian rupiah, Asia's best-performing currency.It's a far cry from Indonesia's blood-soaked introduction to democracy, when the dictator Suharto was ousted in the wake of the Asian financial crisis that hit Indonesia worse than any other country.The election was also a resounding rejection of Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto, retired generals from the Suharto era accused of serious human rights violations. They were the vice-presidential running mates of Mrs Sukarnoputri and Mr Kalla, respectively.And, by re-electing Mr Yudhoyono, Indonesians have shown they believe the democratic system can deliver a leader who adequately addresses their needs and aspirations.According to the Australian National University's Marcus Mietzner, this should help entrench Indonesia's fledgling democracy."This is the first time Indonesians have re-elected a president under democratic circumstances, and they have done so by rejecting alternatives who were widely believed to be more sympathetic to non-democratic forms of governance," Mr Mietzner said."Australia should be very pleased with this outcome."

© 2009 The Age

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