Democratic Indonesia to Hold Presidential Election

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JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia's 176 million voters will elect a new president on Wednesday, making it only the second time in the nation's history that the president and vice-president will be elected directly by the voters.

It appears the voters in the world's largest Muslim country seems to hold moderate views.

This is presidential election campaigning -- Indonesian style.

Filled with hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Muslim men and women swaying to the beat of rock music.

Indonesia's three top presidential candidates held their last election campaign rallies with the incumbent president holding his biggest ever at the country's largest soccer stadium in the capital city of Jakarta.

"Let us work harder together so that the next five years will become the new rising period for Indonesia," presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

Most polls here show Yudhoyono ahead of his two rivals.  The 59-year-old career military officer is popular for his economic policies and attempts to root out corruption.

But whoever emerges as the winner will face a whole slew of challenges, including how to strengthen the Indonesian economy, the increased threat of terrorism, and the creeping power of radical Islam.

This past weekend, CBN Asia's correspondent attended the last major campaign rally in Jakarta."

"Thousands of Yudhoyono supporters flocked to this big campaign party.  But up to this point, political analysts are saying that they are not satisfied with the way the three candidates have not been seriously tackling the pressing issue on regional autonomy and most especially human rights violations which includes persecution against Christian churches," Lucille Taulsan said.

The rise of radical Islam and Islamic Sharia law in many of Indonesia's provinces are the cause of the persecution against Christians.

Bambang Widjaya is a prominent Indonesian evangelical leader.

"According to our constitution, Indonesia is not a Muslim country, it is a democratic, nationalist modern country," Widjaya said.

Widjaya says the president personally promised to eradicate Sharia law if he is re-elected.

"We have 151 shariah laws and he promised he will revoke those laws," Widjaya said.

But many doubt that Yudhoyono will keep his promise since he's allied with the country's largest Islamic party. 

Meanwhile, the Islamic headscarf known here as the Jilbabs, has become some-what of an election issue. 

With some voters backing Yudhoyono's opponents because their wives wore the traditional Islamic headscarf, while the others did not.

But it appears most voters in the world's largest Muslim nation are more moderate and not fundamentalist.  

"To us the physical look is not important. What is more important is the heart of the person for this nation," said Rohimah, a housewife.

Meanwhile, Christians across the country just completed three days of prayer and fasting ahead of tomorrow's election.

"Christians should be the mouthpiece of Indonesia ... because religious freedom is equal with democracy and democracy equals the growth and the health of the nation."

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George Thomas and Lucille Taulsan

George Thomas and Lucille Taulsan

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