Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Yudhoyono, Megawati to face off

BOMB SCARE The election commission was evacuated after a firecracker-like explosive detonated, spoiling an otherwise smooth poll that settled on two candidates


Former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won the first round of Indonesia's presidential election and will battle President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the second round in September, an election commission official said yesterday.

The commission was to officially announce the final result at around 7:00pm.

Asked if Yudhoyono and Megawati would be first and second, election official Mulyana Kusumah replied "We can say so."

He gave no percentages. But partial results have consistently shown that Yudhoyono won 34 percent of the vote on July 5 compared to 26 percent for the incumbent Megawati and 22 percent for another ex-general, Wiranto.

Wiranto will drop out of the race to lead the world's fourth most populous country.

The result was delayed several hours after a bomb rocked the election commission offices, heightening security fears in the run-up to the vote between the top two candidates.

Police said no one was hurt and damage was slight in the blast in a women's toilet. But Yudhoyono, who would have needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid the runoff, appealed for tighter security.

"There is still time to save this elections process which will go to the second round," he said.

"Don't let it [the bombing] happen in another place," said Yud-hoyono, who led the country's fight against terrorism when he was Megawati's security minister.

"If they are living in anxiety, it can influence the people in casting their votes, in doing the right thing in accordance with their conscience," he said.

Wiranto, who stood for the Golkar party of former dictator Suharto, has challenged his third placing. He claims the vote was flawed and his supporters say they may go to court to contest the result.

Any legal challenge would further intensify political uncertainty in Indonesia, which has been preoccupied with elections for almost the entire year. Separate legislative polls were held on April 5, with Golkar topping the vote.

"The president has instructed us to get the perpetrator soon and prevent similar incidents taking place again," said national police chief Dai Bachtiar of the explosion, the third low-level blast in less than two weeks in the country.

The incidents "do not constitute a national threat yet," he said.

The al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah has staged a series of deadly attacks in recent years but Bachtiar said the probe was not focused on a particular group.

Yudhoyono, 54, quit Megawati's Cabinet in March, complaining she was freezing him out. In the April election her party lost almost 40 percent of its support, with millions of voters disgruntled over lackluster growth, rising prices, massive unemployment and widespread corruption.

The taciturn and aloof-seeming Megawati, a daughter of founding president Sukarno, waged a more vigorous and higher-profile campaign for the presidential poll.

Analysts say the second-round race could be close, especially with Megawati, 57, enjoying the advantages of incumbency.

The direct presidential election is a major step towards full democracy after decades of authoritarian rule in Indonesia. Strongman Suharto stepped down only in 1998 after 32 years.

Yudhoyono called for a clean second-round fight.

He has complained previously of smear tactics spread by text messages in the world's largest Muslim-populated nation, which falsely alleged that he is secretly a Christian.

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