BOGOR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesia’s voters handed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a second five-year term on Wednesday, placing their faith in his firm but unassuming hand on the economic tiller and his promises of further reform.
Officials results from the election will not be announced until later this month, but “quick count” results — which have proved extremely reliable in the past — showed Yudhoyono had won enough votes to avoid a second run-off with his nearest rival.
Not known for jumping to a conclusion, Yudhoyono declared his own resounding victory as the results rolled in from across the archipelago of 226 million people.
“The quick counts show our success, thanks be to God,” the 59-year-old former army general told reporters as jubilant supporters flocked to his home in Bogor, Java island, to congratulate him.
With virtually all of the LSI polling agency’s sample of votes counted, Yudhoyono’s tally stood at a commanding 60.82 percent. Other agencies put his score slightly lower, but all showed he was comfortably above the halfway mark needed to avoid a second round.
The election, only the second direct vote for a president in Indonesia, cements the country’s transition to democracy after a chequered history.
It is also likely to usher in an acceleration of reforms in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy which could lure foreign investment, create jobs and shore up flagging 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 on Wednesday for the poll.
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 Indonesia 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 prioritise 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 had been some concern that the pair might use the doubt sown about the credibility of the vote to challenge the result, but Kalla conceded defeat just hours after polling booths closed.
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 favouring Indonesian firms, as well as rampant corruption that distorts the economic playing field.
(For an election graphic, click here)
Additional reporting by Ed Davies, Sunanda Creagh, Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia in Jakarta; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Sara Webb