ASIA/INDONESIA - Polling stations closed: good turnout 150 million Indonesians place first ever vote for President

Monday, 5 July 2004

Jakarta (Fides Service) - Good turnout, no incidents so far, great hopes for today’s elections say Fides sources in Jakarta where 150 million Indonesians expressed their choice for the new president of the world’s most populous Muslim country (over 230 million 85% Muslim).
According to exit polls, in this the first direct vote for the presidency in the history of Indonesia, in the lead is former minister of security general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, ahead of other more accredited candidates, outgoing president Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri and for army chief Wiranto.
The election results will be announced within ten days. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority there will be a second round of voting in September. Prior to these direct elections the President was chosen by a legislative assembly. Foreign observers and Fides local sources are confident that the vote will be peaceful and that democracy will strengthened in this country which only in 1998 managed to free itself of the dictatorial regime of General Suharto, which had lasted over thirty years.
On the occasion of these history making elections in Indonesia, Fides Service proposes to its readers an in-depth look at the country,and its political and religious situation. Besides a profile of the candidates and their programmes, we give a historical-political analysis explaining the possible scenarios opening in the present where old powers, economic lobbies and military sectors struggle to take back the reins.
Decisive in this scenario, and often exploited, is the religious factor which, as Fides explains, could still condition future social and political balances.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/7/2004 lines 28 words 346)