President Megawati Sukarnoputri apologized Thursday for the shortcomings of her three-year tenure, as official vote-counting for Monday's presidential election reflected her imminent defeat.
But Megawati stopped short of conceding the election to her rival, retired Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She asked people to await the official results, which will be announced Oct. 5.
"It is undeniable that there is much work that needs to be done, and many shortcomings which have not been resolved," Megawati said in her annual speech to the upper house of parliament.
"For all those shortcomings and those unresolved matters, to the respected assembly and to all the people of Indonesia I love, together with the vice president, I offer my deepest apology."
It was an unusual display of humility for the president, who has avoided acknowledging mistakes and berated others in the past for criticizing her. She has pressed charges against newspaper editors for headlines critical of her and her policies, and during her tenure, activists who have stomped on posters bearing her image have been jailed.
Wearing a blue dress and flanked by uniformed military aides, Megawati sought to justify her administration's failure to achieve more. "It is impossible to imagine," she said, that one could "resolve all of those basic matters in a short time."
Without elaborating, she listed unemployment, poverty, poor schools and expensive school fees as problems her government failed to solve. In a country of 238 million, more than 40 million people are unemployed or underemployed, more than 50 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and more than 6 million children cannot afford to attend public school.
On the plus side, she asserted that her administration had "laid the foundation for implementing the national reform agenda." She noted that this year, for the first time in Indonesia's 59-year history, voters directly elected their president. On Monday, about 120 million people in the world's most populous Muslim nation cast ballots for president in a vote that international observers said was fair, free and peaceful.
As of Thursday, with about 90 percent of the vote counted, 61 percent chose Yudhoyono and 39 percent chose Megawati, a trend that has not changed since Monday.
"With this direct system, it is hoped that the next government will be more responsive to the needs of the people," she said, not mentioning Yudhoyono's name in her speech.
Ever since Megawati and Yudhoyono emerged as the two top vote-getters in a first-round contest in July, Megawati has tried to catch Yudhoyono. She had the support of Golkar, the largest political party, and launched a charm offensive in which she began to meet the people. She also sought the help of American campaign consultants Mark Penn and Doug Schoen, but was never able to overtake her opponent.