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Indonesia early counts show no easy win for Yudhoyono
Wed Jul 8, 2009 2:40am EDT
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By Sunanda Creagh
JAKARTA (Reuters) - "Quick counts" from Indonesia's election showed reformist President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono far ahead of his challengers, but it was far from certain that he would clinch the 50 percent of votes required to avoid a run-off.
Analysts said the first results should be treated with caution as most of them would be from eastern provinces where there are many supporters of Yudhoyono's rivals, Vice President Yusuf Kalla and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.
One polling agency's early count put Yudhoyono at 48.82 percent and his nearest challenger at 29.94 percent, but another put him at 54.44 percent.
Yudhoyono needs more than 50 percent of the vote from the electorate of some 176 million voters to avoid a run-off round.
The election, only the second direct vote for a president in Indonesia, will determine the pace of reform over the next five years and cement the country's transition to democracy.
Analysts expect that in a second term Yudhoyono would quicken the pace and widen the scope of reforms in Southeast Asia's biggest economy to attract badly needed foreign investment, create jobs and shore up flagging economic growth.
Indonesian stocks, bonds and the rupiah have rallied this year on the prospect of a Yudhoyono win, and analysts see them rising further on hopes of a more robust reform drive if he wins in one round. If there is a surprise and Yudhoyono loses or it goes to a run-off, there would be a sharp market sell-off.
A decade ago, Indonesia was the sick man of Asia. After 32 years of rule by Suharto, who oversaw a system of entrenched corruption and nepotism, it stood on the brink of political, social and financial collapse.
Yudhoyono's government has since brought political stability, peace and the best economic performance in a decade. Today, some see the country on another brink -- of economic take-off and joining the emerging "BRIC" economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
"Today is the people's day," Yudhoyono told reporters after casting his vote in the town of Bogor, on Java island.
VOTER LIST ROW
Polling stations opened first in the remote eastern region of Papua, where extra police and special forces were on standby after recent violence linked to separatists, but there were no reports of unrest during the short, five-hour voting window.
Other polling stations followed as the sun rose across the rest of the country, though there was little sense of excitement after weeks of opinion polls showing that Yudhoyono was almost certain to be re-elected.
The streets of central Jakarta, normally choked with traffic, were quiet with a few police standing watchfully at key intersections and close to polling stations.
In Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, there was no repeat of the protests triggered by problems with the electoral rolls in April's parliamentary elections and the streets were quiet. Continued...
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