- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

JAKARTA, Indonesia | Indonesia’s president appeared all but certain to win another five-year term, with early ballot counts indicating a sweeping election victory Wednesday that will give him a powerful mandate to press ahead with democratic reforms.

An unofficial quick count of ballots sampled from 2,000 polling stations showed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono winning 60 percent of the vote, putting him well beyond a 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff in September in the predominantly Islamic nation of 235 million.

But Yudhoyono opponents - without providing proof - made accusations of electoral fraud, questioned the validity of the quick-count polling and threatened to contest the final results.

The preliminary result was based on ballots from all 33 provinces and conducted by the Indonesian Survey Circle, which has accurately forecast previous elections.

The survey count showed that Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president whose father was the first post-colonial leader of Indonesia, was in second place at 27 percent, followed by Vice President Jusuf Kalla in third at 13 percent.

Five other pollsters conducted exit polls and quick counts that also gave Mr. Yudhoyono around 60 percent of the vote.

“The [official] vote count is clearly not finished, although quick counts show the success of our struggle,” Mr. Yudhoyono said in televised comments from his private residence.

“If there is a protest, follow the mechanism provided under the law,” he said, referring to the process of filing a complaint with the National Election Commission.

Mr. Kalla, who heads Golkar, the party of former dictator Suharto, said he was “shocked” by the quick counts indicating his defeat, but that his polling monitors are confident that “the result is not like that.”

Prabowo Subianto, Mrs. Sukarnoputri’s vice presidential running mate, told reporters: “We are inventorizing the cases as preparation for legal action,” but gave no concrete examples.

An official result is to be released by the National Election Commission by July 27. The commission did not respond to repeated phone calls seeking comment.

There were no reports of major incidents at roughly 450,000 polling stations across Indonesia’s thousands of islands, including in the capital, Jakarta, where early estimates showed Mr. Yudhoyono had taken 70 percent of the vote.

Mr. Yudhoyono has an image as a tough and dedicated corruption fighter with high moral integrity. During his watch, the Corruption Eradication Commission has put a dozen lawmakers behind bars, earning it many powerful enemies in the graft-ridden police, parliament and judiciary.

Mr. Yudhoyono won praise on the international stage for a swift crackdown on Islamic militants after a series of suicide bombings killed 240 people from 2002 to 2005.

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