Subject: Team SBY Not A Shoo-In, Say Analysts

The Straits Times (Singapore) May 23, 2209

Team SBY Not A Shoo-In, Say Analysts

Lynn Lee, Indonesia Correspondent

Public opinion can be swayed and presidential poll seen as wide open

JAKARTA: Pollsters say President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) will be re-elected easily on July 8, but some analysts insist that such predictions are premature.

Dr Yudhoyono and his running mate, former Bank of Indonesia governor Boediono, must win over 50 per cent of the votes cast the first time. Otherwise, Indonesia's 171 million voters will have to go to the polls again on Sept 8.

While the approval ratings for Team SBY were high in a recent Indonesian Survey Institute poll - some 70 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the pair - the institute's senior researcher Burhanuddin Mutahdi said that could change.

'The opinion of society is dynamic. Even if the electability of SBY- Boediono is high, it does not mean they cannot be defeated,' he wrote in the Suara Pembaruan daily.

Two other pairings - former president Megawati Sukarnoputri with former general Prabowo Subianto, and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla with ex-general Wiranto - are running against Team SBY.

Analyst Bima Arya Sugiarto told The Straits Times that all the candidates are still in the running.

'It's still too early to say that SBY will win in one round. There is the Boediono factor,' he said, referring to the perception of Mr Boediono as a pro-free-market policymaker, a view which could turn off some voters.

Some sectors in Indonesian society fear that this means the government will be pro-foreign investment and have little interest in helping the ordinary folk prosper.

Mr Bima, who runs the Charta Politika political consultancy, said the candidates' campaign teams would have to play up their strengths.

For instance, Mr Kalla and Mr Wiranto could portray themselves as the most representative of Indonesian society, he said.

Mr Kalla is from outside Java, an entrepreneur and has the support of Islamic groups. His running mate is Javanese, a former military man and seen as advocating the protection of the domestic market.

But Indonesia expert Jeffrey Winters believes Dr Yudhoyono's only obstacle to a one-round contest has been removed.

Had Mr Prabowo run for the No. 1 post as he had at first indicated, Dr Yudhoyono could be facing a tougher fight, said Dr Winters.

Mr Prabowo has been accused of ordering the abduction and killings of pro-democracy activists in 1998, but gained 'a surprising amount of popularity' in the April 9 election. His new Gerindra party won 4.6 per cent of votes.

Dr Winters, who teaches at Northwestern University, said Mr Kalla and Ms Megawati were weak rivals and that their running mates made no difference to voters.

'Even if Mega ran with Obama, she would still lose,' he said, referring to popular US President Barack Obama.

Ms Megawati, who lost the second round of the 2004 election to Dr Yudhoyono, is seen as a weak choice and Mr Prabowo's track record would be 'a liability' to her, observed Mr Bima.

While Mr Wiranto has also been accused of human rights abuses - he allegedly allowed killings by military troops in then-East Timor in 1999 - this is not the first time Indonesians are being reminded of it, said Mr Bima.

Then backed by Golkar, Mr Wiranto contested the 2004 presidential election but lost in the first round.

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