Indons to vote in first polls for V-P and president

JAKARTA: Indonesians will vote for their next president and vice-president for the first time in history on July 5 next year, the country's national general election commission said yesterday. 

The commission, better known by its Indonesian acronym KPU, made the decision late on Thursday and the date is expected to get final approval at KPU's plenary meeting next Tuesday. 

It also decided that if, as is expected, no one wins a majority on July 5, a run-off between the top two candidates would be held on Sept 20. 

“The first round of the presidential election will be held on July 5, 2004. The second round on Sept 20, 2004,” said Mulyana W. Kusumah, a KPU member. 

Previously, presidents were elected by the People's Consultative Assembly, the nation's supreme legislature, but it decided last year to hand that power to the people. 

Kusumah said that if there was a second round the results were expected to be finalised and official on Oct 5 next year. 

Parties will contest in a parliamentary poll in April and field candidates for the presidential vote if they can get more than 3% of the 550 parliamentary seats up for grabs. 

Incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri of the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDI-P) so far is the strongest presidential candidate for next year. 

PDI-P, the party with the most seats in parliament, is seeking a running mate for her who can fill in the solid Muslim credentials she lacks. Megawati is a practicing Muslim but she and the PDI-P are secular-oriented. 

Analysts say incumbent Vice President Hamzah Haz is likely to seek his own Islamic party's nomination for president. – Reuters  

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