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9/30/04 - INDONESIA ELECTS A PRESIDENT - 2004-09-30

Indonesia held its first direct election of a president. The challenger, former General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is leading incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The official results will be announced on October 5th. Mr. Yudhoyono paid tribute to Mrs. Megawati for ensuring free and fair elections.

Eric Bjornlund is director of the Carter Center, a U.S.-based monitoring group. He says the elections were the most democratic in Indonesia's history:

"The election went quite well, was reasonably well administered. In general, our assessment of the election process is quite positive."

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli says the Indonesia elections are good news for emerging democracies:

"What we have seen is that these elections have set a strong example for the region and emerging democracies everywhere. We are a close friend and partner of Indonesia and we, therefore, strongly support their democratic process."

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and has more Muslims than any other country. More than one-hundred-fifty million Indonesians registered to vote. President George W. Bush says the advance of democracy means a better way of life for millions of people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike:

"No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace. We've witnessed the rise of democratic governments in predominantly Hindu and Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian cultures. Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations."

"People everywhere," said Mr. Bush, "are capable of freedom and worthy of freedom."