BOGOR, Indonesia – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looked set to win a second term on Wednesday as provisional election results showed there would be no need for a run-off vote, opening the way for a period of quickening reform.
I think it's clear now that Yudhoyono has won in one round, said Kevin O'Rourke, a Jakarta-based political risk analyst.
Political allies flocked to Yudhoyono's home in Bogor, on Java island, to congratulate the former army general as quick counts of votes cast across the archipelago of 226 million people rolled in.
Continue! they chanted, using Yudhoyono's campaign slogan.
With about 94 percent of the LSI polling agency's sample of votes counted, Yudhoyono's tally stood at a commanding 60.8 percent. He will need to secure half of the votes to avoid a run-off with the nearest of his two challengers.
The official verdict on the election will come later this month, but quick count results have proved extremely reliable in the past.
The election, only the second direct vote for a president in Indonesia, will determine the pace of reform over the next five years and cement the country's transition to democracy.
Analysts expect that in a second term Yudhoyono would quicken the pace and widen the scope of reforms in Southeast Asia's biggest economy to attract badly needed foreign investment, create jobs and shore up flagging economic 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 for the election.
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 the country 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.
CHALLENGERS WAY BEHIND
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 prioritize 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 remains a small risk that the pair could use the doubt sown about the credibility of the vote to challenge the result.
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 favoring Indonesian firms, as well as rampant corruption that distorts the economic playing field.
(Additional reporting by Ed Davies, Sunanda Creagh, Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia in Jakarta; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Sara Webb)