Indonesian polls set for second round

Bambang stays in the lead as Megawati and Wiranto race to win critical second position for a place in September run-off.

All eyes are on the battle between President Megawati Sukarnoputri and former general Wiranto to see who will emerge second in Indonesia’s presidential election.

With 21 million votes tallied so far by the General Elections Commission (KPU), former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has retained his lead position but looks unlikely to secure more than half of the vote and become the outright winner.

Instead, he seems set to take on the No 2 candidate in a second and final round of voting in September.

Yesterday, Ms Megawati and Mr Wiranto were running neck and neck.

Official figures gave Mr Bambang 33 per cent of the vote, with Ms Megawati on 26 per cent and Mr Wiranto 23 per cent.

Indonesia has some 150 million registered voters and counting is expected to continue for the next 10 days, but the KPU figures are close to a projection of the final results by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI).

The latter’s exit polls, based on 2,500 polling stations nationwide, pointed to Mr Bambang winning the first round but failing to secure the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off between the top two candidates.

The NDI forecast Ms Megawati to edge out Mr Wiranto.

Political observer Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia told The Straits Times: ‘The margin of error is 1.1 per cent. It could go either way because they are so close. But ultimately, what will swing it one way or the other is brand name and the Java vote.’

On both scores, Ms Megawati has a slight edge.

As daughter of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno, she is still able to draw substantial backing in Java, home to more than 60 per cent of the voters.

Cadres from her Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle said yesterday that she was ahead in parts of Central Java and East Java.

But early indications also point to Mr Bambang siphoning votes away from both Ms Megawati and Mr Wiranto in the key battleground.

On paper, the President is not expected to do well in West Java, a stronghold of Mr Wiranto’s Golkar party.

But early results show a large number of Golkar voters backing Mr Bambang instead. One reason for Mr Wiranto’s performance so far could be that the parties formally backing him – Golkar and the Nation Awakening Party – did not support his candidacy fully.

Still, his supporters believe the tide will turn when votes from rural areas in Java and the outer regions are tallied. Golkar is perceived to have a stronger network in the outlying regions whereas Ms Megawati’s supporters are mostly Java-based.

A Wiranto aide, Mr Nasser Tamara, said of the results so far: ‘It is only a small percentage of the votes. Let’s not jump to any conclusion. Wiranto will make it to the second phase.’

Observers do not expect National Assembly chairman Amien Rais and Vice-President Hamzah Haz to mount a late surge.

As of yesterday, Dr Amien has about 14.4 per cent of the votes, with just 3.2 per cent going to Mr Hamzah.

But they will still have a role in Round 2 as the top two winners seek to win over their supporters.

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