3 May 2004

Bambang widens lead over Mega in survey

Soft-spoken former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has widened his lead over President Megawati Sukarnoputri ahead of Indonesia's July presidential election, a public opinion poll found yesterday.

Mr Bambang received 30.6 per cent of respondents' backing compared with Ms Megawati's 14.6 per cent, according to the survey by The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES).

Mr Bambang, Ms Megawati's former security minister, is continuing 'his rapid ascent as the favourite', IFES said.

His lead shot up from 18.4 per cent recorded in IFES's last survey conducted between March 21 and 28. The earlier poll gave Ms Megawati 11.6 per cent.

IFES conducted its latest survey after the April 5 legislative elections but before official presidential candidates had become known.

The Golkar party which claimed victory in the general election has named another retired general, Wiranto, as its candidate for Indonesia's first direct presidential ballot on July 5.

This is good news. Golkar seems to have backed the wrong horse, although presumably the Golkar endorsement will lift Wiranto above his current standing of 2.2%. Gus Dur is in severe difficulties because the KPU has issued a regulation excluding blind candidates. I plan on following the IFES standings through the campaign over the next month.

The news from Ambon is worse. The SMH reports:

Indonesia's military yesterday denied allegations that soldiers had taken part in an attack on a church in the eastern city of Ambon, which has been racked by five days of Muslim-Christian violence.

Witnesses said uniformed infantrymen fired into the air before ordering seven families living close to the city's Protestant church to leave their houses early on Wednesday. Minutes later, unidentified men torched their homes and the church.

The claims - the latest in a string involving the poorly trained military - have angered Christians in the Maluku islands capital, where 34 people have been killed since Sunday.

TNI has a long tradition of inciting regional violence at the behest of individuals within the Jakarta political elite. Wiranto's history in East Timor is the worst example. The recent violence may be part of such a campaign - create a security crisis and then offer yourself as the man on horseback.

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