-- Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the projected first-round winner of Monday's presidential election in Indonesia, has opened talks with opposing political parties to secure support in an upcoming runoff, although half the ballots had not been counted, campaign sources said Wednesday.
Most significantly, Yudhoyono's aides have begun negotiations with the country's largest party, Golkar, according to the sources, speaking on condition they not be identified. Golkar was headed by former president Suharto, the country's longtime dictator.
The discussions so far have remained informal because Golkar's presidential nominee, Gen. Wiranto, the former armed forces commander, continues to predict that he will reach the second round, the sources said.
But projections by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) indicated that the incumbent, Megawati Sukarnoputri, had narrowly defeated Wiranto for second place, giving her the right to face Yudhoyono, her former chief security minister, in the runoff on Sept. 20.
With slightly more than half the votes counted by Wednesday night, Yudhoyono led with 34 percent of the total, followed by Megawati with 26 percent and Wiranto with 22 percent. Two other candidates were far behind.
Yudhoyono's Democrat Party is a relatively minor factor in Indonesian politics, and Yudhoyono must now build a coalition of secular and Muslim voters if he is to prevail. Analysts said Megawati would also seek broad appeal beyond her core supporters from people loyal to her as the daughter of Sukarno, the founder of modern Indonesia.
On Wednesday, a top official in Yudhoyono's campaign met with Akbar Tandjung, the chairman of Golkar, a source close to Yudhoyono said.
"Informal offers are going back and forth," said Rachmat Witoelar, a senior political adviser to Yudhoyono. "It's logical that they would join with us because we share the same ideas. . . . Now it's a question of price."
The negotiations involved efforts by Golkar to win ministerial posts in any Yudhoyono cabinet, but Witoelar said Golkar should not expect to secure any of the most powerful posts.
"If they don't support us, we will win anyway," Witoelar said. "It's a sellers' market, not a buyers' market."
Officials with Yudhoyono's campaign were optimistic that Golkar loyalists would prefer the former security chief to Megawati. An exit poll conducted by NDI showed that 31 percent of Golkar supporters bypassed their own party's nominee to vote for Yudhoyono, compared with only 8 percent for Megawati.
Hazairin Sitepu, an official with Yudhoyono's team, said the senior campaign staff was being consolidated in part to make room for representatives of other parties.
In addition to approaching Golkar, Yudhoyono's advisers have also begun informal discussions with the National Awakening Party, loyal to former president Abdurrahman Wahid, campaign sources said. That party, which controls the third-largest block of seats in the parliament, had supported Wiranto's candidacy.
Representatives of Megawati's campaign also have met recently with a Golkar delegation to discuss a possible deal, a source in her campaign said.
Campaign officials said Megawati's advisers have been less aggressive about lining up expanded support for the runoff because they have been preoccupied with surviving the first round.
Special correspondent Natasha Tampubolon contributed to this report.