Thu, 24 Jul 2003

C. Java on red alert ahead of balloting

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post, Semarang

The Central Java Police declared, on Wednesday, the province to be on a state of red alert, to ensure that security and order would be maintained during the gubernatorial election on Thursday.

Provincial police chief Insp. Gen. Didi Widayadi said security troops were anticipating possible disturbances in the provincial capital of Semarang and the sultanate town of Surakarta.

"There is a possibility of rioting in Semarang if Mardijo loses as the city is his stronghold. The same thing could happen in Surakarta, which is the base of support for Mardiyanto," Didi said.

He was referring to the provincial legislature speaker and the incumbent governor, (respectively), who have emerged as the strongest contenders for the top post.

Surakarta has a history of mass riots, the latest flaring up in October 1999 when PDI Perjuangan supporters ran amok, following the defeat of Megawati in the presidential race.

Over 3,000 police and military personnel have been deployed to maintain security during the election, at the provincial legislature on Thursday.

Home minister Hari Sabarno sent a letter on Wednesday to the election committee, saying that the election could go ahead as scheduled.

Mardijo is nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) despite a veto from party chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, who prefers Mardiyanto. The latter is nominated by the National Awakening Party (PKB).

Megawati fired Mardijo as chairman of the party's Central Java chapter for insubordination on Monday.

Mardiyanto's bid for reelection has received a major boost after 38 PDI Perjuangan councillors said they would comply with Megawati's order. Their pledge came during a meeting with PDI Perjuangan Deputy Chairman, Gunawan Wirosarojo, Secretary General Sutjipto and Deputy Secretary General, Pramono Anung Wibowo at Sahid Raya Hotel in Surakarta, where Mardiyanto was also present.

Only 34 councillors were present, but the four absentees had notified the party that they would follow Megawati's order, a PDI Perjuangan councillor, who requested anonymity, said.

He said during the meeting the party hinted that Mardiyanto would be supported by 10 of 16 PKB councillors, to earn him the majority vote. The Central Java legislature has 100 seats.

Sutjipto claimed that the presence of almost all of PDI Perjuangan councillors, and all 35 chairpersons of party branches, proved that Mardijo lacked support.

He said the party central board did not plan to take punitive measures against the party faction in the legislature on the grounds that they were pressured to nominate Mardijo.

"It is an open secret that the process of Mardijo's nomination was marked by extraordinary pressure both physical and mental on the faction members. That's why we do not recommend his nomination," Sutjipto said.

Commenting on comments by chairman of the party's faction at the People's Consultative Assembly, Arifin Panigoro, Sutjipto said he had questioned the statement which came after the decision had already been taken.

Sutjipto said Arifin hadn't turned up at party meetings for a long time.

Mardijo said the meeting in Surakarta was a forum to indoctrinate party councillors.

"The central board has adopted a strange policy. How could a mother abandon her own child to take care of a wild monkey?" he said, citing an old Malay saying.

Despite the move from Jakarta, Mardijo said he would fight to the end, claiming that he already secured 37 votes from PDI Perjuangan councillors.

Meanwhile, secretary of Golkar faction, Sutoyo Abadi, said all the party's 12 councillors would vote for Slamet Kirbiantoro, who has reportedly secured support from the 12 United Development Party faction members and a half of the 10 councillors representing the military and police faction.