Megawati leading in presidential race, election survey shows
The Associated Press
By Slobodan Lekic

JAKARTA, Indonesia — President Megawati Sukarnoputri remains the front-runner in Indonesia’s presidential race, but former dictator Suharto’s Golkar Party may emerge as the largest party in parliament, according to a new nationwide poll.

Sixteen percent of potential voters picked Megawati as their choice in the July 5 ballot, the first direct presidential election in Indonesian history, according to the poll commissioned by the Washington-based International Republican Institute and released Friday.

With about 24 percent of the electorate still undecided, Megawati’s nearest competitors were former president Abdurrahman Wahid with 7 percent and Golkar head Akbar Tanjung with 6 percent.

A number of other candidates garnering from 2 percent to 3 percent accounted for the rest of the potential votes.

Still, Megawati’s rating was only about half of what her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle won with in the country’s first democratic elections in 1999, after the end of Suharto’s 32-year reign.

Megawati’s party received 34 percent of the vote in the 1999 election that ushered her into power. In that ballot, an electoral college chose her as head of state.

Her party’s victory was then seen as a reflection of her own popularity as the daughter of the country’s founder and first president Sukarno, and as leader of the pro-democracy movement that ended the iron-fisted 32-year reign of former dictator Suharto.

Megawati still has a basis of support from what she stood for going into the ’99 elections,” said Thomas Garrett, who heads the IRI office in Jakarta. “Those people who were loyal to her then, remain loyal to her now.”

But Garrett said the outcome of the elections was still too early to call.

Golkar – which used to be the main political pillar of Suharto’s dictatorship – is not slated to pick its presidential candidate until after the April 5 parliamentary elections.

According to the new survey, in the campaign for Indonesia’s 550-seat parliament, Golkar is maintaining a clear lead with 24 percent of the vote.

Megawati’s party came in second with 19 percent, followed by Wahid’s National Awakening Party with 10 percent, and two moderate religious parties that garnered 5 and 7 percent. The remaing 5 percent went to other parties.

The poll showed that nearly 30 percent of eligible voters remain undecided with regard to the parliamentary race. Almost 98 percent of those polled said they planned to cast their ballots.

The survey, conducted by the international polling firm Taylor, Nelson Sofres, was based on interviews with 2,540 likely voters across Indonesia. It had a margin of error of just under 2 percentage points.

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