x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Yudhoyono set for a second term

Indonesia's voters hand Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a second five-year term as president.

Election officers count ballot papers in Jakarta yesterday. Initial vote counts indicated that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had won a second term.
Election officers count ballot papers in Jakarta yesterday. Initial vote counts indicated that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had won a second term.

BOGOR, Indonesia // Indonesia's voters handed Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a second five-year term as president yesterday, placing their faith in his firm but unassuming hand on the economic tiller and his promises of further reform. Official results from the election will not be announced until later in the month, but "quick count" results, which have proved extremely reliable in the past, showed Mr Yudhoyono had won enough votes to avoid a second run-off with his nearest rival.

Not known for jumping to a conclusion, Mr Yudhoyono declared his own resounding victory as the results rolled in from across the archipelago of 226 million people. "The quick counts show our success, thanks be to God," the 59-year-old former army general told reporters as jubilant supporters flocked to his home in Bogor, Java island, to congratulate him. With virtually all of the LSI polling agency's sample of votes counted, Mr Yudhoyono's tally stood at a commanding 60.82 per cent. Other agencies put his score slightly lower, but all showed he was comfortably above the halfway mark needed to avoid a second round.

The election, only the second direct vote for a president in Indonesia, cements the country's transition to democracy after a chequered history. It is also likely to usher in an acceleration of reforms in South East Asia's biggest economy, which could lure foreign investment, create jobs and shore up flagging growth. A former president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, denounced the election. "Real democracy means, first, there are no indications of fraud," Ms Megawati said on local station TV One.

"How could it be that up until yesterday I was still receiving reports that about 10 million people could not exercise their right to vote, and also that 68,000 polling stations were disappeared?" she said. "In my opinion, this is a pseudo-democracy." Indonesian stocks, bonds and the rupiah have rallied this year on the prospect of a Yudhoyono win and analysts now see them rising further on the results. Jakarta markets were closed yesterday for the poll.

A decade ago, Indonesia was the sick man of Asia. After 32 years of rule by Suharto, who oversaw a system of entrenched corruption and nepotism, it stood on the brink of political, social and financial collapse. Mr Yudhoyono's government has since brought political stability, peace and the best economic performance in a decade. Today, some see Indonesia on another brink: of economic take-off and joining the emerging "BRIC" economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Nevertheless, the world's most-populous Muslim country is hardly problem-free: corruption is widespread, infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul and millions live in poverty. Analysts say Mr Yudhoyono is likely to pick more technocrats, and fewer politicians from among his coalition partners, to fill his next cabinet so that the government can promote reform. "He will try to do more to attract investment, but at the same time he will be more serious about eradicating corruption. He will prioritise good governance and economic growth," said Aleksius Jemadu, a political scientist at Pelita Harapan University.

"He will reform the bureaucracy to make it easier for investors to come here. He will make sure some of the red tape and the bureaucratic obstacles will be removed." The LSI vote count showed that Mr Yudhoyono's challengers, Ms Megawati and the vice president, Jusuf Kalla, were trailing at about 27 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively. Ms Megawati and Mr Kalla adopted a more nationalist tone than Mr Yudhoyono in their campaigns, promising to squeeze more from the country's rich resources to pay for pro-poor policies.

A controversy over voter lists marred the run-up to the election, with the teams of Mr Yudhoyono's two rivals complaining about millions of duplicate names and even the names of dead people and children on the electoral rolls. There had been some concern that the pair might use the doubt sown about the credibility of the vote to challenge the result, but Mr Kalla conceded defeat just hours after polling booths closed.

* Reuters, with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse