THE Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is expected to promote a more assertive foreign policy during his second term, leveraging the country's status as an international standard bearer of democracy and moderate Islam. The retired general and moderate reformist is believed to have triumphed in Wednesday's presidential election. He is yet to claim victory and one rival, Megawati Soekarnoputri, may still bring a challenge based on alleged widespread fraud in the voter list. But, a day after the usually reliable quick counts by independent polling groups were issued, Indonesians were already looking ahead to Dr Yudhoyono's next five years in office. Anies Beswaden, rector of Paramadina University, said Dr Yudhoyono could become a regional leader of significance. "He could emerge as a global leader," he said, noting Indonesia had banked a huge amount of international goodwill for holding a peaceful election when the region was beset by political turmoil. "I think his destiny and legacy will be in the international sphere." As the world's largest country with an Islamic majority, the region's beacon of democracy and a nation that is overwhelmingly moderate religiously, Indonesia has plenty of "soft power" to deploy. World leaders such as the US President, Barack Obama, have been effusive in their praise of its development. Australia had been hoping that Dr Yudhoyono would win a second term and bring more economic stability and security to its previously fragile near neighbour. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, called Dr Yudhoyono yesterday afternoon to congratulate him on his expected win. Dr Yudhoyono has had a long interest in international affairs. Wimar Witoelar, a prominent commentator, said he expected the President to leave much of the nitty gritty of domestic affairs to his cabinet. "He does have the stature to be a statesman," he said. "Indonesia can carry its weight internationally by itself." Many in the intellectual elite want Indonesia to develop a foreign relations strategy outside the Association of South-East Asian Nations, which has been widely derided as ineffective, for example in its inability to force Burma to introduce even the most modest reforms.
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