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Yudhoyono promises growth after apparent election win

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-09

Indonesia’s incumbent President Susilo Babang Yudhoyono has promised stronger economic growth after apparently being re-elected in a landslide victory over his opponents.

AFP - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised stronger economic growth Thursday, a day after apparently being re-elected in a landslide on the back of pledges to fight graft and poverty.

Unofficial results gave the liberal ex-general a huge 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 traumatised recently by political turmoil and oppression.

Yudhoyono said later Thursday he had received congratulations from several regional leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

"One by one they conveyed their congratulations, not just to me but to Indonesia's democracy... and our election, which the world has seen as being peaceful and democratic," Yudhoyono said.

The General Election Commission website said its "raw data" gave Yudhoyono -- known simply as SBY -- a massive 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.

Official final results are not expected for days or weeks but the commission's provisional results matched the findings of six independent polling agencies.

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 had to wait for the final results.

He said his first priority was economic growth in a country that has already set an impressive pace despite the global financial meltdown.

"The recovery process can go faster. We hope that by 2011 the global economy would have healed," he told reporters following his first cabinet meeting after the election.

"We really hope that (growth) will be about 4.0 to 4.5 percent... These are among the best figures in the world after China and India."

He also promised to encourage investment, create jobs and reduce the number of Indonesians living below the poverty line from the current 32.5 million.

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 late Wednesday 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 which put Megawati in the lead.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies analyst Nico Harjanto said there was "no evidence of systematic or massive fraud" in the polls.

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 of which she approved.

National newspapers hailed 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's signature initiative has been a drive to end the culture of pervasive corruption in the mainly Muslim country of 234 million people spanning 17,000 islands.

Date created : 2009-07-09