09/18/2004, 00.00
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Susilo headed for victory over Megawati, survey says

Jakarta (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The run-off in Indonesia's presidential elections scheduled for next Monday seems to have a winner already. According to the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) former General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be Indonesia's next president. Its research shows that 52.6 per cent of respondents prefer Susilo as president against 34.3 per cent for current president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Another 13.1 per cent is undecided or did not answer. "Megawati has a substantial backlog to catch up on," said Alan Wall, programme manager for Indonesia of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. "It's a formidable challenge for her to try to overcome."

The survey results were released after the three day official campaign ended. Over this short period each candidate made a daily 45-minute nationally televised speech followed by question-and-answer sessions with experts.

Ill at ease in front of the cameras, president Megawati proved stilted in her television performances. "Terrorism can take place anywhere," she said in defence of her government's record on security. "Let us take the example of the United States . . . the September 11 twin towers incident could not be prevented so couldn't the attack against the Embassy," she added. Never the less, the September 9 attack against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta seems to have undermined voters' confidence in her abilities to cope with the situation.

Camera-friendly Susilo made a better impression with viewers gaining support thanks to his image of great integrity and strength of character, the image of a man who could cope with difficulties under pressure, someone who sits well with an electorate shaken by the recent terror attack in which nine people died.

For the former Security Minister, "[w]hat is clear is that the ability for early detection must be enhanced. But what is also clear is that the intelligence [agency] should not work alone, its cooperation with the security forces must be improved".

According to many political analysts Megawati's last minute alliance with former dictator Suharto's powerful Golkar party is just a marriage of convenience and is unlikely to save her from electoral defeat. Struck in late August the deal left many voters wondering. Even though it won last April's parliamentary elections, a cloud of suspicions still hangs over Golkar for alleged violence and corruption.

Over the last few months Megawati crisscrossed the country trying to salvage her fading campaign buttressing her support among ordinary people such as farmers, fishermen and craftsmen. As part of her strategy, Megawati ended her campaign inviting some 2,000 street kids and artists to her home.

Asked by pollsters many voters gave vague reasons for their choice. According to some analysts, local media disinformation is largely to blame. "Personality plays a crucial role and many voters will cast their ballot according to how they feel towards the candidates," one analyst said.

In the first round of election on July 5, Susilo, who is running for the Democratic Party ticket, won 33.5 per cent of the vote against 26.6 for Megawati.

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