Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looked yesterday to have a huge mandate to fight graft and poverty in the world’s third-largest democracy after an apparent landslide election win.
Unofficial results gave the liberal ex-general a massive lead over opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and outgoing Vice President Jusuf Kalla following Wednesday’s vote, despite Megawati’s complaints of irregularities.
In only the second direct presidential election in the Southeast Asian powerhouse since the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998, Yudhoyono confirmed his status as the most popular leader of the new democratic era.
The peaceful vote also reinforced Indonesia’s position at the vanguard of democracy in a region traumatized recently by political turmoil and oppression.
The General Election Commission Web site said its “raw data” gave Yudhoyono — known simply as SBY — 61.66 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a second-round run-off in September.
Based on 18.72 million votes counted out of more than 170 million eligible voters, Megawati was second with 28.57 percent and Kalla was a distant third with 9.77 percent, it said.
The figures, which the commission described as “preliminary” and “not official,” matched six independent polling agencies’ estimates that put Yudhoyono at about 60 percent and Megawati at around 27 percent.
Yudhoyono, a taciturn doctor of agricultural science who is fond of writing love songs in his spare time, thanked his supporters for his “success,” but stopped short of claiming victory, saying he must wait for the final results.
“My first priority will be recovering our economy from the impact of [the] global economic crisis,” he told reporters late on Wednesday.
He also spoke of “bureaucratic reforms and maintaining a climate that is conducive for economic development and ... investment, trade and other forms of economic cooperation.”
Kalla congratulated his former running mate and boss for the past five years, but Megawati described the election as an exercise in “pseudo-democracy” and repeated complaints about alleged “fraud.”
“Real democracy means, first, there are no indications of fraud,” the 62-year-old daughter of independence hero Sukarno said after the exit polls showed her winning just over a quarter of the vote. “In my opinion, this is a pseudo-democracy.”
Her running mate, notorious former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto, said he was preparing a legal challenge and cited an “independent” count that put Megawati in the lead.
Megawati, who was ousted from the presidency by Yudhoyono in 2004, made similar complaints about April’s general elections and ahead of Wednesday’s vote, leading to changes in voting procedures, which she approved.
National newspapers paid her complaints little heed, hailing the vote as a “landslide” victory for Yudhoyono and a great step forward for Indonesia’s maturing democracy.
“For three consecutive elections since the nation ousted Suharto in 1998, Indonesians have shown that they are as sophisticated and as civilized as any other mature democracy in the world,” the Jakarta Post said in an editorial.
Yudhoyono has promised to boost economic growth, create jobs and end a culture of pervasive corruption in the mainly Muslim country of 234 million people spanning 17,000 islands.