Mega tells nation to accept result

Choking back tears, President Megawati Sukarnoputri edged closer to conceding defeat yesterday, urging Indonesians to accept the results of the country’s landmark leadership ballot.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Indonesian armed forces, she appeared to acknowledge her loss to former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in her trademark indirect style.

‘Whoever has been chosen, we must graciously accept it, because the victory is a victory for all of us,’ she said to applause from the crowd, which included the incoming president sitting 10 seats away.

‘We have succeeded in concluding a national task … We have to be able to show the world that our nation is a big nation and one of noble ethics,’ she continued.

Her rival for the post, the 55-year-old soldier who has yet to make a formal acceptance speech, avoided direct comment on the election result yesterday.

Instead, he praised Ms Megawati’s address. ‘Her speech was good. She has invited all of us to accept the results of the election.’

It did little, however, to hide the difficulty he faced in reconciling with Ms Megawati, whom he served as security czar until his abrupt exit from her Cabinet in March to contest the country’s first direct presidential vote.

Mr Fuad Amris, a legislator with her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), said: ‘It is the Javanese mindset. Ibu Mega cannot come to terms with being challenged and defeated by her subordinate. It is not an easy reality to accept.’

Some of Ms Megawati’s advisers have accused Dr Yudhoyono of electoral fraud. But, said Mr Fuad, who met the President’s influential husband Taufik Kiemas on Monday: ‘Privately, Ibu Mega and her family members have accepted defeat.’

Insiders in the Yudhoyono camp told The Straits Times that moves were still under way to arrange a meeting between the two leaders.

An aide to the retired general disclosed: ‘He wants to make peace. He wants to take over power knowing that he does not have an enemy in the daughter of Sukarno.’

But observers believe that Dr Yudhoyono is offering an olive branch in a bid to break up the coalition opposed to him in Parliament. Both Golkar and Ms Megawati’s PDI-P control more than half of the 550-strong legislature.

Indonesia’s president-elect was yesterday also mulling over his choices for the Cabinet, with plans for a new government of ‘professionals’.

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