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IN THE NEWS - Indonesia's Presidential Election - 2004-09-25

Broadcast: September 25, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to become the next president of Indonesia. With most ballots counted, the former military chief and security minister has a wide lead over President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Both candidates say they will not comment on the election until final results are announced October fifth. The new president is to be sworn-in October twentieth.

The election was Monday. The next day, a measure of leading Indonesian stocks closed at an all-time high in reaction to the apparent victory. Traders say the market rose in hopes of aggressive economic measures by Mister Yudhoyono.

The Indonesian economy has suffered since the Asian financial crisis that began in nineteen ninety-seven. Mister Yudhoyono has said he hopes to increase foreign investment by improving legal protections for businesses.

But he could have difficulty winning support for his programs in parliament. Political parties allied with Mizz Megawati hold a majority of seats.

Mister Yudhoyono would be Indonesia’s fourth head of state since nineteen ninety-eight. That was when protests forced President Suharto to resign. A former general, he ruled the country for thirty-two years. Under Mister Suharto, lawmakers and representatives of the military and provinces chose the president. The next leader will be the country’s first directly elected president.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is known to most Indonesians as S.B.Y. He helped start the Democratic Party in two thousand-two. The former military commander served in the governments of Abdurrahman Wahid and President Megawati.

He was dismissed after he refused to support emergency measures to prevent the ouster of President Wahid. And he left the government of President Megawati in March in another dispute.

Mister Yudhoyono campaigned as a new independent voice. He said he would provide strong but fair leadership for the more than two hundred million people in Indonesia. He also said he would improve the economy, create more jobs and put an end to separatist and ethnic violence.

He also promised strong action against terrorism. This has helped make him popular with many Western governments.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. There have been three major attacks there in the past two years. The most recent was the bombing this month near the Australian embassy in Jakarta. Nine people were killed.

The attacks have been linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, a group tied to al-Qaida. Some of the top suspects remain free.

In a speech to parliament Thursday, President Megawati apologized for her government’s record in fighting terrorism. She said international cooperation is needed to do the job effectively.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.