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Susilo holds lead in Indonesia


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Indonesia
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Megawati Sukarnoputri

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- After just over one third of the votes have been counted in Indonesia's presidential election, retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is holding onto a significant lead.

Susilo may not garner enough votes to avoid a runoff, however, and a September battle for second place is likely.

A candidate needs more than 50 percent of votes to win the election outright and avoid a runoff.

The former chief security minister is leading with 33.6 of the votes, according to figures released by the General Election Commission on Wednesday.

Incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri is trailing in second place with 26.6 percent, while her former armed forces chief Wiranto is in third place with 22.1 percent.

Megawati was once thought to be assured of a second term in office, but she is trailing amid criticism of her weak and aloof leadership style.

"It's easy for others to criticize. I need to be strong. This is about building a nation. It's about patience," she said on Tuesday.

Five candidates are battling for the presidency of the nation of 220 million people -- the world's largest Muslim country.

One hundred and fifty-three million people were eligible to vote in the sprawling archipelago.

Official results are not expected for over a week, partly because millions of ballots have to be recounted after many voters failed to unfold their ballots before punching a hole next to their candidate's name.

Pre-election polls had shown Susilo leading with around 40 percent, compared with Megawati's 15 percent.

While Susilo has not laid out any specifics on how he would help the resource-rich economy since his campaign began in March, the U.S. graduate is widely seen as a politician with a common touch and the clout to deliver widely-needed reforms.

"I will ask the people to watch this ongoing elections because our democracy needs a transparent and accountable political process," he said on Tuesday.

The scandal-free Susilo has promised to boost security and tackle corruption during his campaign, and he is gaining on a groundswell of support that shuns corruption and political dynasties.

The polls, the first by universal suffrage, are seen as a key step toward democracy six years after the fall of dictator Suharto, who ruled for 32 years.

Previous presidents were elected by lawmakers -- a system widely abused by Suharto.

Unofficial reports put turnout at more than 80 percent.


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