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Indonesia’s Yudhoyono set for one-round election win


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s campaign team flash the victory sign in Cikeas, West Java in Jakarta July 8, 2009.

Indonesia’s Yudhoyono set for one-round election win


Indonesian presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (C), his wife Kristiani Yudhoyono (R) and his son Edi Baskoro (L) show their ballot papers at a polling station in the Cikeas district in Bogor July 8, 2009.


A man casts his ballot for the Indonesian presidential election in Jakarta July 8, 2009.


A voter dips his finger with ink at a polling station in Cikeas district in Bogor July 8, 2009.

BOGOR, Indonesia (Reuters) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looked set to win a second term on Wednesday as provisional election results showed there would be no need for a run-off vote, opening the way for a period of quickening reform.

“I think it’s clear now that Yudhoyono has won in one round,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a Jakarta-based political risk analyst.

Political allies flocked to Yudhoyono’s home in Bogor, on Java island, to congratulate the former army general as “quick counts” of votes cast across the archipelago of 226 million people rolled in.

“Continue!” they chanted, using Yudhoyono’s campaign slogan.

With about 94 percent of the LSI polling agency’s sample of votes counted, Yudhoyono’s tally stood at a commanding 60.8 percent. He will need to secure half of the votes to avoid a run-off with the nearest of his two challengers.

The official verdict on the election will come later this month, but “quick count” results have proved extremely reliable in the past.

The election, only the second direct vote for a president in Indonesia, will determine the pace of reform over the next five years and cement the country’s transition to democracy.

Analysts expect that in a second term Yudhoyono would quicken the pace and widen the scope of reforms in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy to attract badly needed foreign investment, create jobs and shore up flagging economic growth.

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 for the election.

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.

Yudhoyono’s government has since brought political stability, peace and the best economic performance in a decade. Today, some see the country 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 nation is hardly problem-free: corruption is widespread, infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul and millions live in poverty.


Analysts say 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 prioritize good governance and economic growth,” said political scientist Aleksius Jemadu 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 Yudhoyono’s challengers, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, were trailing at around 27 and 13 percent, respectively.

Megawati and Kalla adopted a more nationalist tone than 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 Yudhoyono’s two rivals complaining about millions of duplicate names and even the names of dead people and children on the electoral rolls.

There remains a small risk that the pair could use the doubt sown about the credibility of the vote to challenge the result.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a child, is expected to visit the country later this year — a trip that would warm ties that both countries say they plan to raise to the level of “comprehensive partnership.

However, U.S. trade officials and businesses complain about a range of protectionist policies, including judicial and bureaucratic bias favoring Indonesian firms, as well as rampant corruption that distorts the economic playing field.

(Additional reporting by Ed Davies, Sunanda Creagh, Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia in Jakarta; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Sara Webb)

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Dalai Lama hedges on Taiwan trip’s political impact


Dalai Lama hedges on Taiwan trip’s political impact

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TAIPEI  – The Dalai Lama, reviled by Beijing as a separatist, has said it is too early to know whether his protest-hit Taiwan visit this week had hurt the self-ruled island’s ties with rival China.

The world-renowned Tibetan spiritual leader told government-run Taiwan Public Television on Wednesday that no one had “manipulated the visit” for political reasons.

Whether his visit had hurt Taiwan’s recently improved ties with China was “too early to tell,” and would take six to 12 months to find out, he said in a rare political comment on a trip focused mostly on religion.

His Aug. 30-Sept. 4 visit to Taiwan has focused on prayers for victims of a typhoon that killed up to 745 people last month.

Beijing has avoided criticising Taiwan’s president, who is friendly to China and permitted the Dalai Lama’s visit only under pressure from opposition leaders, but has delayed some exchanges and cancelled minor events with Taiwan.

Dozens of rowdy protesters from a coalition of political groups stood outside the Dalai Lama’s Taipei hotel on Wednesday and Thursday demanding he leave early.

“There’s definitely a negative impact on ties with China. How deep it goes we must wait to see,” said protest organiser Wang Chuan-ping. “If there weren’t voices calling for an independent Tibet and an independent Taiwan, we’d welcome the Dalai Lama.”

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

Taiwan has worked with China since mid-2008 to ease hostilities by establishing trade and transit links. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He has visited Taiwan twice before.

Beijing calls him a “splittist” who seeks to separate nearly a quarter of the land mass of the People’s Republic of China. The Dalai Lama denies the charge and says he seeks greater rights, including religious freedom and autonomy, for Tibetans.

In a recent sign of China’s sensitivity towards Tibet, Tibetan documentary maker Dhondup Wangchen is awaiting trial for “inciting separatism” in Qinghai province, which is partly ethnic Tibetan, according to a petition obtained by Reuters.

Chinese authorities have forced his lawyers to stop representing him, casting doubts over the fairness of his trial, the petition said.

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Unpopular Japan PM’s job at risk after Tokyo vote


Unpopular Japan PM’s job at risk after Tokyo vote

TOKYO  – Unpopular Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s job is at risk after his ruling bloc suffered a big defeat in a Tokyo poll on Sunday, with critics in his party now expected to intensify moves to ditch him before a national vote.

NHK public TV said Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner had lost their majority in the Tokyo assembly while the opposition Democratic Party won the most seats in the vote, which is considered a barometer for the national election.

Aso has been thought to be eyeing an early August national vote, but many in the LDP were already opposed to a move they fear would be political suicide.

NHK public TV said Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura and LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda agreed in talks on Sunday the outcome of the Tokyo vote would not affect national politics and Aso would not be blamed for a defeat.

However, Kyodo quoted another unidentified ruling party executive as saying: “This is a great blow against the Aso government.”

The long-ruling LDP has been wracked by internal dissension of late, with Aso critics openly urging an early party leadership vote to replace him while his allies defend his right to call a general election at a time of his own choosing.

“There will be confusion inside the LDP. People will try to oust Aso and he will try to stay on,” said Keio University political science professor Yasunori Sone.

“It is not clear if they can oust him and if they did, would support for the LDP increase? Not much,” Sone said. “Chances the LDP could win under a new leader are very small. That has become clearer as a result of this Tokyo election.”


A Democratic Party victory in the lower house election would end half a century of nearly unbroken rule by the business-friendly LDP and raise the chances of resolving a deadlock in a divided parliament as Japan tries to recover from its worst recession since World War Two.

Aso’s term as LDP leader expires in September and his critics in the party are keen to bring forward the leadership vote to replace him ahead of the general election.

Possible candidates to replace Aso include Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yoichi Masuzoe, 60, a former academic and TV commentator seen as competent and hardworking.

But Aso is Japan’s third premier to take office since Junichiro Koizumi led the party to a huge win in a 2005 election, so voters might not be impressed with another change at the top.

The Democrats, hoping to intensify pressure on the ruling bloc, are considering submitting a no-confidence motion against Aso in the lower house.

But Japan’s biggest opposition party has its own headache.

Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama has apologised for the fact that some people listed as his political donors were dead. But the LDP — although far from immune to scandals itself — is pressing for him to appear in parliament over the affair.

Hatoyama took over as party leader in May after his predecessor stepped down to keep a separate fundraising scandal from hurting the party’s chances at the polls.

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