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Soccer fans snore through poll

From CNN Correspondent Kathy Quiano

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Indonesians are looking for a change from Megawati.
• Fact sheet:  The election process
• Key facts about Indonesia

• Is it the end for Megawati?
Is Indonesia's direct presidential election evidence that democracy can work in Islamic countries?
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Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Megawati Sukarnoputri

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Presidential elections in Indonesia got off to a very slow start on Monday with millions of soccer mad Indonesians opting to sleep in after staying up until dawn for the Euro 2004 final.

Most polling stations across the capital, Jakarta, were virtually empty when they opened at 7 a.m. despite analysts predicting a huge turnout among around 150 million registered voters.

Polling officials pointed the finger at the Euro 2004 final and were confident voting would pick up once the soccer fans shook off their sleepiness.

"I hope I can wake up tomorrow," laughs Joseph Wirakoesraidi, who like so many others staged an all-nighter to watch Greece upset hosts Portugal 1-0 to win the European championship.

But for officials it is no laughing matter.

Opinion polls say about 20 percent of the eligible voters are not certain to vote and some fear the undecided may decide to skip voting due to the early-morning viewing despite Monday being a national holiday.

And that could mean the difference between a second runoff poll should none of the five candidates, including incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri and frontrunner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, win a 50 percent majority to claim the leadership.

"I'm worried after watching the final game, they'll find good excuses for not coming to the polling booth," says sociologist Daniel Sparingga.

Euro 2004 certainly gripped Indonesia more than the election campaigns did. After all, football is the country's favorite sport.

However, though 23-year-old Wirakoesraidi was a little blue after rooting for the losing team Portugal, he was taking the elections seriously.

"I'm very excited of course (but) I want to see a lot of changes," he told CNN.

But a few hours before polls opened, Joseph was still deciding on his candidate.

At least 40 percent of Indonesians say they'll vote for former general Susilo, according to opinion polls.

That's more than all the other candidates combined.

Another former general, Wiranto, Parliament Speaker Amien Rais and incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri are running neck and neck for the second spot.

The underdogs prevailed in Euro 2004. Will the same happen in Indonesia's elections?

Like in any game, the results are hard to predict.

If no one wins more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round, the two top candidates will go head to head in run off elections on September 20.

Indonesians may just have to wait for another final.

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