Exit polls give Yudhoyono 2nd term

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looked assured of winning a second term Wednesday after exit polls gave him a massive lead in only the second presidential vote since the fall of Suharto.

A poll broadcast by MetroTV gave the liberal ex-general 58.51 percent of the vote, compared to 26.32 percent for opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and 15.18 percent for outgoing vice-president Jusuf Kalla.

Another "quick count" poll broadcast by TV One gave Yudhoyono 60.15 percent, Megawati 27.36 and Kalla 12.49.

Final official results are not expected for up to a month but the unofficial figures suggest Yudhoyono will avoid a second-round run-off in September.

He needs more than 50 percent of the vote and 20 percent in all 33 provinces to win in the first round.

"The vote-count hasn't finished yet... but the poll surveys in their quick counts show the success of my comrades," he said at his residence south of Jakarta after polling closed across the archipelago.

But ex-president Megawati, daughter of independence hero Sukarno, denounced the vote as "pseudo-democracy" and repeated claims she made before the election that millions of people had been left off voter lists.

"Real democracy means, first, there are no indications of fraud," Megawati said on local television.

"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'?

"In my opinion, this is a pseudo-democracy."

Megawati's running mate Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general accused of human rights abuses as commander of Suharto's special forces, said the campaign was preparing legal action over "fraud" in the poll.

He said a separate "independent" quick count had put the Megawati ticket in the lead.

"In our opinion, a lot of government institutions have not been neutral, affecting the election process," he said.

Kalla said he was "shocked" at his poor performance but offered his congratulations to Yudhoyono, his boss in the outgoing administration and running mate in 2004.

Yudhoyono dismissed accusations of widespread fraud, calling on all sides to solve their disputes peacefully.

"I am of the opinion (this election) was democratic and transparent and was carried out well. If in the field there are one or two cases (of fraud)... settle it through legal means," he said.

"What's important is having an interest and spirit in settling this, not doing the opposite."

Megawati, who was ousted from power by Yudhoyono in 2004, also complained bitterly about irregularities in April general elections but the vote was declared valid.

Some 170 million people were registered to vote in the world's largest Muslim-majority country, from eastern Papua province to Sumatra island in the west -- spanning three time zones and 17,000 islands.

Yudhoyono has promised to boost growth and clean up the corrupt bureaucracy, but has been attacked as a "neo-liberal" by his rivals, who championed populist policies of "self-reliance."

The 59-year-old -- who likes to write love songs in his spare time -- is the most popular Indonesian leader in the democratic era despite a reputation for indecisiveness and his background as a Suharto loyalist.

His centrist Democratic Party almost tripled its vote in April to become the largest in parliament.

If re-elected, he will be the first president to serve consecutive terms at the helm of the world's third-biggest democracy after its violent birth at the end of Suharto's 32 years of dictatorship in 1998.

From bloody street unrest and economic chaos in the late 1990s, Indonesia has transformed itself into the best performing economy in Southeast Asia and an example of democratic stability in a region scarred by political turmoil.

The country has weathered the global financial meltdown, with domestic demand underpinning growth at around four percent this year.

Yudhoyono's administration ended a long-running separatist conflict in Aceh province in 2005 and cracked down on Al-Qaeda-inspired fanatics who launched the 2002 Bali bombings and other atrocities.

There were no reports of violence disrupting voting, despite communal tension in several provinces.