Fri, 05 Dec 2003

Alzier's win annuled, revote planned

Oyos Saroso H.N., The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung, Lampung

After almost one year of leadership standoff in Lampung, the central government has finally issued a ministerial decree annulling the gubernatorial election of Alzier Dianis Thabrani and ordering a revote to elect a new governor for the province.

The decree issued by Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno claims the election of Alzier, currently on trial for graft, breached existing procedures and laws, but the Lampung legislative council defended the Dec. 30, 2002 election as democratic.

The revote should be held early in April, or August 2004 at the latest, after next year's direct presidential election, according to the decree.

On Thursday, Minister Hari swore in his aide, Tursandi Alwi, as the acting governor of Lampung until after the council reholds the gubernatorial election.

The installment of Tursandi was based on Presidential Decree No. 262/M/2003 issued recently by President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Regents, mayors and other senior officials, as well as several councillors in Lampung attended the swearing-in ceremony.

Tursandi, a native of West Lampung, who is also the research and development head of Hari's office, was actually put in charge of the governorship five months ago, before being sworn in as acting governor.

Councillors' responses to the appointment are divided, while the court is yet to hand down a verdict on Alzier's corruption charges.

Council speaker Abbas Hadisunyoto opposed the installment of Tursandi and the plan to rehold the elections. "Alzier was elected through a democratic process," he argued.

Minister Hari should have respected the outcome of his meeting with council leaders, in which it was agreed that the central government would not recommend a revote or the appointment of an acting governor, he continued.

However, chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) faction in the council Malhani Manan backed Hari's move.

Support also came from Sahlan Safri, who chairs Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction in the council.

"Under the presidential decree, it's now clear that the gubernatorial election will be reheld. The appointment of the acting governor makes sense in order to secure the 2004 elections in Lampung," Sahzan said.

Alzier defeated the then incumbent governor, Oemarsono, who was supported by Megawati. She later dismissed Alzier from PDI Perjuangan for refusing to back Oemarsono's reelection bid.

Alzier's victory ended with a corruption charge filed against him. The governor-elect was also charged with using a fake diploma in his election bid.

Political analysts have criticized Megawati for practicing authoritarianism in chairing her party. Alzier's case was not the first. Megawati had also dismissed PDI Perjuangan's councillors in Jakarta, who opposed the reelection bid of Governor Sutiyoso, a retired three-star Army general, earlier last year.

She did the same when her dissenting members in Central Java nominated this year the chairman of the province's PDI Perjuangan, Mardijo, to challenge Mardiyanto, a two-star Army general, in the gubernatorial race.

Demonstrations, in support of Alzier's win, have been frequent in the Lampung capital of Bandarlampung. But rallies were not seen on Thursday to support or oppose the annulment of his election.

Earlier on Sunday, Alzier's supporters threatened to occupy the official residence of the governor and the council building if the central government went ahead with its plan to annul the outcome of the Dec. 30, 2002 election.

Local people carried out their daily activities as usual, though police deployed hundreds of personnel in a number of strategic places across the Southern Sumatran city.

Lampung Police chief Brig. Gen. M.D. Primanto said his office had anticipated possible protests during Thursday's inauguration of the acting governor.