Mega and her rivals launch presidential bid

Tight security as 30-day campaign begins for first direct poll.

Six years after the fall of Suharto, Indonesia crossed another major threshold in its transition to democracy as campaigning for the country’s first direct presidential election began yesterday.

A large parade of colourful floats carrying some of the five contenders and their running mates snaked through the capital’s main thoroughfare to mark the start of a month-long campaign.

But the carnival-like atmosphere – and the pledge by all candidates for a peaceful campaign – belied the growing tension of the power struggle between President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her rivals.

Despite the advantages of incumbency, she is trailing far behind former security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The latest opinion poll by the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) showed Mr Bambang, a retired general, ahead with 41 per cent popular backing to her 11 per cent. In third place is former military commander Wiranto, with 10 per cent.

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