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Indonesia president still No.1 election choice - poll

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s approval ratings have steadily declined since he came to power in 2004, but he would still win if elections were held now, according to a new poll.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono salutes as the national flag is raised during a ceremony to mark the country's 62nd independence day at the presidential palace in Jakarta in this August 17, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Supri

Yudhoyono, a former general, won the country’s first direct presidential election in 2004 when he promised to tackle widespread corruption, spur economic growth and create jobs.

But his government has struggled to deliver on some promises.

A nationwide survey of about 1,200 people conducted in January by a private pollster, the Indonesian Survey Institute, showed 53 percent were satisfied with Yudhoyono’s performance.

The rating was unchanged from a previous survey by the same pollster last year, but was a significant drop from 61 percent in 2006 and 65 percent in 2005.

His popularity was at 80 percent after he assumed office in October 2004.

But Yudhoyono, who is widely expected to run for a second term in 2009, remained the choice of most voters, with 34 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for him if elections were held now.

Former President Megawati Sukarnoputri polled second with 24 percent, followed by the sultan of Yogayakarta, Hamengkubuwono X, with 6.6 percent.

Almost 6 percent said they were undecided and the rest were divided between 17 other political figures.

“The drop in approval is in line with a less positive view among citizens on the nation’s economic condition,” the pollster said.

“SBY remains the strongest candidate but support for him tends to decrease when voters are given more choices,” it said, referring to Yudhoyono’s popular initials.

Indonesia’s economy has been growing at a healthy pace, but Southeast Asia’s largest economy is still struggling to attract foreign investment and, more recently, food prices have been soaring.