- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Unofficial tallies showed a former army general with a commanding lead in the presidential election yesterday over incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose nickname “the Queen of Silence” reflects widespread disenchantment with her rule.

Mrs. Megawati’s administration has been punctuated by a fitful response to terrorist bombings in Bali and Jakarta, charges of corruption and a sense that she would rather do shopping than deal with the nation’s pressing problems.

“Megawati, bad,” said a waiter on the eve of Indonesia’s first direct presidential election. “Her husband, corrupt. She also corrupt,” he added.

“SBY is not corrupt,” the waiter said, endorsing Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the retired general who was reported to have received 34 percent of the vote, well ahead of Mrs. Megawati with 25 percent but not enough to avoid a runoff between the top two finishers.

“Megawati never spoke, but SBY says many good things about how he will fix things,” the waiter added.

Official election results are not expected for about two weeks, but a poll of ballots cast at 2,500 voting stations by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute showed Mr. Yudhoyono ahead with 33.9 percent.

Mrs. Megawati was second with 24.9 percent, and another former general, who uses the single name Wiranto, was a close third with 23.8 percent. The second-place candidate in the official tally will face Mr. Yudhoyono in a runoff in September.

The winner will have to deal with a crippled economy, Islamist terrorism, attacks on Christians, insurgency in Aceh province and massive corruption.

Mr. Yudhoyono, at least, would come to the job having won praise for his handling of a car bombing last year at the U.S.-owned J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 persons.

The former general’s work as Mrs. Megawati’s coordinating minister for political and security affairs was credited for several arrests in the case.

Mrs. Megawati, meanwhile, has been criticized for her penchant for watching light entertainment, including cartoons on television, and shopping instead of solving problems.

Washington, for its part, has not been amused by her criticism that the Pentagon has acted unilaterally in its war on terrorism and invasion of Iraq.

“A surge of unilateralism in international affairs has shunted aside the established democratic ways of resolving disputes between and among nations,” Mrs. Megawati said Wednesday.

Mrs. Megawati is the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, and U.S. attempts to destabilize his leftist regime made her suspicious about Washington’s designs on this oil-rich Southeast Asian nation.

Her father’s tyrannical 1945-66 rule was ended by Gen. Suharto, who became president for 32 years.

Gen. Suharto, with U.S. support, coordinated a nationwide slaughter of 300,000 to 1 million suspected leftists and imprisoned 750,000 others, according to historians.

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