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Indonesia vote counting going agonizingly slowly

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Election officials Tuesday were forced to defend the painfully slow vote-counting process that was dampening the euphoria of this southeast Asian nation's freest vote in 44 years.

Before Monday's balloting, election officials had promised to have half the 116 million votes counted by Tuesday evening. But late Tuesday, only about 1 percent had been tabulated."The delay has nothing to do with political factors," National Election Commission Chairman Rudini said. "It's purely the delay in the process of vote counting at the village level."

More than a year after pro-democracy protests ended President Suharto's 32-year authoritarian rule, this ethnically diverse archipelago of 210 million people held Monday's election in remarkable peace.

Election observers, including former President Jimmy Carter, said the voting in the world's fourth most populous country seemed to have been conducted fairly, with only scattered pockets of violence and irregularities.

As results began to trickle in, the opposition party of Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's founding president, led the way. Final, official results weren't expected until June 21.

"If it is taking so much time, I am afraid the momentum is gone and I am worried about some kind of manipulation," Laksamana Sukardi, treasurer of the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle.