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Sunday, June 20, 1999 Published at 22:12 GMT 23:12 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Muslim leader moves to block Megawati

Megawati's election rallies dominated the Indonesian campaign

One of the main Muslim-based political parties in Indonesia has joined calls to reject a woman candidate as the country's president.

Indonesia Flashpoints
As the counting of election results continues, the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) continues to hold the lead with just over a third of votes cast.

The party's leader is Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's founding President Sukarno.

[ image: Many Indonesians hold President Sukarno in high esteem]
Many Indonesians hold President Sukarno in high esteem
The former President is held in high regard by many Indonesians even though most were not born until after he fell from power.

Now the United Development Party (PPP) says it will join other Muslim groups and press Muslim legislators elected in the 7 June ballot to form an alliance against Megawati taking the presidency.

"[The] PPP, in line with its Muslim scholars' decree, wants the best Muslim son, not a daughter. A he, not a she," party chairman Hamzah Haz is quoted by the official Antara news agency as saying.

BBC Jakarta Correspondent Jonathan Head: It could take months to negotiate a new government
But the DPI-P says it is not worried about opposition from Muslim groups to a woman becoming president.

One of Megawati's closest advisers, Kwik Kian-gee, said the constitution allowed for no discrimination between male and female.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country although the degree to which people stick to Islamic doctrines as practised in some Middle Eastern countries varies widely.

Further delay for results

PDI-P 34.6%
Golkar 21.8%
PKB 12.3%
PPP 10.6%
PAN 7.6%
PBB 2.0%
% votes counted 75.2%
With around three-quarters of the vote counted the PPP is currently running in fourth place, behind the ruling Golkar party which has around 20%.

But election officials say it could take them another two and a half weeks to finalise the results because of calls for recounts and new elections.

Golkar appears to be gaining ground on the PDI-P, steadily increasing its share of the vote.

Analysts say they expect that figure to rise to around 25%, at the expense of Megawati's party, as the final results come in from outlying rural provinces where Golkar's support-base is thought to be strongest.

This has led to speculation that Golkar may be able to retain some role in government by forming a coalition with smaller parties to override any Megawati-led coalition.

Shared vision

But Mr Haz says his party will not join with Golkar, or back its nomination for the presidency, the incumbent BJ Habibie.

[ image: Megawati's party has been holding discussions about coalition-building]
Megawati's party has been holding discussions about coalition-building
He says his party will enter coalitions with individual Muslim legislators "who share the same platform, mission and vision, so that we can unite in choosing the candidate for the presidency".

President Habibie has urged voters to place national interests above all else and said that people should accept the result of the poll.

A special assembly of legislators elected in the ballot and military and government appointees will choose a head of state later this year.

'No fraud' finding

[ image: The slow results process has raised suspicions of fraud]
The slow results process has raised suspicions of fraud
The slow pace of results has sparked growing suspicions of about electoral fraud taking place, but a delegation of US poll observers announced on Sunday that they had found no evidence of major irregularities.

"The very complex process of counting and tabulation has inevitably taken considerable time," the US National Democratic Institute and the Carter Center said in a joint statement.

The groups said poor training given to officials and the need to correct mistakes made earlier caused the delay.

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Internet Links

Indonesian Elections: Special report from the Asia Society

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