Voters set for landmark polls in Indonesia
JAKARTA: Indonesians go to the polls on Monday to directly elect their president for the first time, with a respected former general leading the race to take over a troubled country in the front line of the war on terror.
But if opinion poll leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former chief security minister, fails to get an outright majority on Monday over incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri and other contenders, he will need to win a run-off in September.
The election follows a messy transition to democracy in the world’s most populous Muslim nation since strongman Suharto quit in 1998, a six-year period marred by political chaos, economic crisis and bomb attacks by Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda.
In a Sunday broadcast, Megawati urged all candidates and their supporters to ensure the election process was peaceful. “If we can succeed in passing through these difficult times calmly and peacefully, it is not impossible that our success can be seen as a model for other nations which are currently going through transition to democracy,” she said.
Megawati, one of five candidates on Monday’s ballot, achieved a measure of stability in three years in office but has been criticised for not promoting better economic growth and fighting corruption vigorously enough. Many Indonesians hope Yudhoyono, 54, will put their unwieldy but resource-rich country on a firmer footing, create the jobs they crave and stamp out pervasive graft.
More than 150 million people are eligible to vote across Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands and 220 million people, making it the world’s fourth most populous nation. In the past, a legislative body chose leaders.
The election involves five million workers and more than 585,000 polling stations, with ballots delivered to remote villages by means ranging from four-wheel drive SUVs to donkeys. reuters