Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Polls show Susilo with giant lead, just under 50 percent

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta

A Jakarta-based pollster confirmed on Thursday the popular appeal of Democratic Party candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in its latest survey.

The poll by Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicated (SSS) shows that 46.64 percent of respondents said they would vote for Susilo and running mate Jusuf Kalla in the July 5 election, as they believed Susilo-Kalla were most capable of resolving the myriad of problems facing the country.

The SSS interviewed 5,000 respondents in 17 of the country's 32 provinces for the opinion poll. The poll was conducted from May 21 to June 1, when the month-long campaign period began.

The poll asked respondents to select the candidates they believed could tackle the issues of unemployment, poverty, inflation of basic commodities, separatism and terrorism, among others.

Following far behind Susilo-Kalla was National Mandate Party (PAN) candidate Amien Rais and running mate Siswono Yudohusodo at 19.70 percent.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidates incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Hasyim Muzadi came third at 13.78 percent, ahead of Golkar Party candidates Wiranto and Solahuddin Wahid at 10.56 percent.

Trailing the polls are United Development Party (PPP) candidates Hamzah Haz and Agum Gumelar at 2.34 percent.

Earlier, the Polling Center, in collaboration with the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), published a survey that also showed Susilo leading at 41 percent, with Megawati a distant second at 11.2 percent.

Another survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) showed the same results.

Sukardi Rinakit of the SSS said although the survey confirmed that Susilo-Kalla was the most popular ticket, "it doesn't take into account the political machine."

He said candidates such as Wiranto and Megawati were backed by very strong political machines that could contribute greatly to their victory.

Megawati chairs the PDI-P, which has long been associated with the grassroots, while Wiranto was officially nominated by Golkar, the political vehicle of former president Soeharto, which still has abundant resources at its disposal.

"We can't tell yet whether there will there be a connection between candidates' political vehicles and their popularity," he said.

Susilo made headlines upon his resigning as top security minister earlier this year after a highly publicized spat with Megawati and her husband, businessmen Taufik Kiemas, alleging that the head of state had left him out in the cold while drawing up crucial security policies.

The Democratic Party he cofounded garnered more than 7 percent of votes in the April 5 legislative election, just ahead of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). The Islam-based Crescent Star Party and the nationalist Indonesian Justice and Unity Party.

However, pundits have begun to doubt his real strength, saying that Susilo would fare no better in the presidential election than his political vehicle did in April.