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Susilo and Kalla, poll favorites

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta

If we are to believe the opinion polls conducted so far by respected institutes, running mates Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and businessman Jusuf Kalla have a good chance of winning the July 5 elections. But television polls challenge the above impression.

Born in the East Java town of Pacitan on Sept. 9, 1949, Susilo was appointed as mining and energy minister by former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid in 1999. He cofounded the Democratic Party while he was considering quitting President Megawati Soekarnoputri's Cabinet.

Megawati's husband Taufik Kiemas rebuked him publicly over his decision to quit, which boosted Susilo's popularity.

Susilo, who has a masters degree in management from Webster University in the United States is seen as one of the intellectuals among the military and its retired officers. A number of foreign governments reportedly favor the son-in-law of the late Gen. (ret) Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, because of his stance against terrorism.

Critics, however, point out that the prolonged unrest in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam must also be attributed to the collapse in negotiations with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) when Susilo was coordinating minister for political and security affairs.

In the military Susilo last served in 1999 as chief of staff of territorial affairs, a position earlier called the chief of staff of social and political affairs.

In 1996 he served at the Jakarta military command as chief of staff and is therefore also suspected of being linked to the violent takeover of the headquarters of the then Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), of Megawati Soekarnoputri. However Susilo has denied any links to the July 27 incident.

His running mate, Jusuf Kalla, withdrew his bid as a presidential candidate under the Golkar Party to join Susilo. Supporters say that his professional experience in the business sector compliment Susilo's background in the military and the bureaucracy.

Born into a family of wealthy entrepreneurs in the South Sulawesi town of Bone on May 15, 1942, the graduate of the Hasanuddin University and the European Institute of Business Administration in France is a successful businessman.

Kalla's first political post was in 1998 when he became the South Sulawesi representative for the People's Consultative Assembly. The father of five has been active in the Association of Islamic Students (HMI), the Indonesian Student Action Front (KAMI), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Golkar.

Both Susilo and Kalla were dismissed by president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid from the Cabinet.

Susilo was dismissed as chief security minister when he rejected Gus Dur's instruction to implement a presidential decree declaring a national emergency.

Kalla was dismissed for corruption charges when he was the industry and trade minister. As coordinating minister of people's welfare under President Megawati, he became popular for the peace pacts he sponsored in Central Sulawesi, following communal riots in Poso, and also in Maluku.

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