Fri, 19 Mar 1999

Golkar offers stability, Marzuki says

JAKARTA (JP): Ruling Golkar claims it is the only party capable of maintaining political stability when a new government is formed after the general election.

Golkar deputy chairman Marzuki Darusman told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that unlike other parties, Golkar would avoid the complicated and potentially destructive process of internal consolidation if it formed the new government.

"Let's say Golkar leaves the government after losing to a coalition of parties. People will raise the valid question of how can they survive the infighting centering on disputing claims of position, not to mention the unimaginable relationship between the new government and the Armed Forces," Marzuki said.

"Golkar's strongest possible challengers, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) may have experience in forming a coalition government, but it was a very long time ago."

PKB and PDI Perjuangan are touted as heirs to the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Indonesian National Party of the 1950s respectively. Both parties have hinted at a coalition.

A record 48 parties will contest the June 7 election. Parties will have less than three months after the poll to negotiate possible coalitions.

Marzuki insisted the stability Golkar offered had nothing to do with economic recovery or security guarantees, but would first of all deal with administrative affairs.

"Golkar has proven its ability to handle problems in making policy and executing policies," said Marzuki, who chairs the Golkar faction in the People's Consultative Assembly.

Marzuki said the issue of stability would attract voters only if the current economic crisis and sporadic sectarian conflicts eased.

He predicted that the issues of justice and possible presidential candidates would highlight election rallies.

"But Golkar is not going to preach to people about justice because they won't believe us. We will just let our challengers exploit the issue to woo their potential voters."

Golkar has seen its popularity dwindle since the fall of former president Soeharto, who was the party's chief patron, in May last year. Demands for the party to be held accountable for alleged widespread corruption, collusion and nepotism have come from numerous quarters.

The issue of presidential candidates also could help Golkar attract voters, according to Marzuki, if the party ended its old tradition of naming only one candidate.

"Multiple presidential candidates will show people that Golkar has already changed."

In its first congress since officially being declared a political party earlier this month, Golkar named five possible presidential candidates. They are President B.J. Habibie, party chairman Akbar Tandjung, Armed Forces Commander/Minister of Security and Defense Gen. Wiranto, Minister of Justice Muladi, Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X and Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Ginandjar Kartasasmita.

But Akbar, despite considerable support, threw in the towel before the competition began and opted to back Habibie.

Marzuki said as of March, Golkar had secured 20 percent of the 25 percent of votes it would need to win the elections for a seventh straight time. Most of the support comes from provinces outside Java.

"People in remote areas tend to favor the status quo and show little resentment toward the government compared to people in Java."

He also predicted more support from Chinese-Indonesians, particularly businesspeople who fled the country during the May riots. "Many of them have returned to the country and have provided funds to us," Marzuki said, adding they did so voluntarily.

Marzuki admitted Golkar's position as incumbent and its traditional alliance with the Armed Forces (ABRI) would provide Golkar many advantages.

"It's very likely that despite its pledge to be neutral, ABRI will take measures in favor of Golkar, although I don't know how. It makes sense because they expect something from Golkar."

In the past, Golkar received the full support of both the bureaucracy and ABRI.

With no single party expected to win the majority of votes, Marzuki said Golkar was prepared to coalesce with other parties, including PKB.

Marzuki said in the long run, a multiethnic and multireligious Indonesia should establish a moderate multiparty system dominated by a nationalistic mainstream. He said Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) represented the mainstream the most and were the two parties most likely to win the future elections. (amd)