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Election day here is a holiday and as such the streets of Jakarta, normally chaotic, were shockingly quiet Wednesday as millions of Indonesians peacefully cast their votes across the country’s three time zones.
The polls opened as the sun came up. In one neighborhood in South Jakarta, residents poured out of back alleyways, leaving their urban village to vote at a makeshift polling station made of four bamboo posts and a tarp. A portable speaker system shouted directions during busy hours and blasted traditional pop music when lines thinned.
Polls closed at noon and within several hours a quick count gave incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a whopping lead with about 60 percent of the vote, meaning no second round would be necessary. Official results won’t be available until July 27 but the quick counts have been remarkably accurate in the past.
His two challengers — Yusuf Kalla, his current vice president, and Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president whom Yudhoyono defeated in 2004 during the country’s first-ever direct election — took about 13 and 27 percent of the vote respectively.
The quick count is in line with numerous surveys in the weeks leading up to the election, which — even those issued by Yudhoyono’s opponents — showed the president with a comfortable lead.
Yudhoyono, a liberal former general, appears to now have a mandate to continue, possibly more aggressively, the economic and bureaucratic reforms he began during his first term. Only 10 years ago Indonesia was embroiled in revolution and economic turmoil, but is now one of the most stable countries in the region.