‘Victorious’ Democratic Party Paves Way for Yudhoyono’s Reelection

JAKARTA ~ President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was looking forward to his presidential campaign on Friday after unofficial results showed his party winning general elections.

His centrist Democratic Party completed its dramatic transformation from political newcomer in 2001 to the strongest party in parliament after largely peaceful elections on Thursday, according to independent polling agencies.

Projections by the respected Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) have the Democrats winning 20.48 percent of the vote, based on its own count of ballots from a representative sample of 2,100 polling stations.

The opposition Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri gained 14.33 percent and Suharto’s former ruling party, Golkar, was close behind with 13.95 percent.

Several other independent polling agencies came up with similar projections, which were also in line with pre-election opinion surveys.

No official results have been released and the final official count is not expected until May 9.

“At this stage the data is stable. The Democrats are the winning party with the most number of votes,” LSI director Saiful Mujani told Metro TV television station late on Thursday.

Islamic parties were projected to win a total of around 26 percent, their worst showing in the country’s history as people focused on practical concerns such as growth and jobs amid the global economic crisis.

Yudhoyono is a softly-spoken ex-general with a sky-high popularity rating thanks to his mild manner, sound economic management and stated determination to crack down on rampant corruption.

His campaign received a boost late last year when a timely fall in crude oil prices allowed him to reverse unpopular increases in the cost of subsidized fuel.

His party may not reach the 20 percent of seats in the 560-seat lower house or 25 percent of the popular vote required to nominate a presidential candidate on its own.

But it could double its strength from the 57 seats it held in the outgoing parliament and is in a strong position for coalition negotiations that will set the scene for the presidential election in July.

“We will start tomorrow engaging in political communications (with other parties),” Yudhoyono told reporters at his home late on Thursday.

Carefully avoiding any claim to victory, he added: “We will see what kind of coalition we have and how many presidential candidates meet the requirements.”

It was the third general election since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998 ushered in a new era of reform, turning Indonesia into the world’s third-largest democracy, after India and the United States.

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