Thu, 11 Mar 1999

Golkar selects five names for presidency

JAKARTA (JP): Golkar Party's three-day congress ended on Wednesday, naming five executives as presidential candidates, with incumbent President B.J. Habibie receiving the most support.

Chairman Akbar Tandjung said that following a tough discussion in a plenary session, the congress finally decided on the five names with the most support.

They were Habibie, Akbar, Armed Forces (ABRI) Chief Gen. Wiranto, Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X and Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Ginandjar Kartasasmita.

South Sulawesi, Maluku and Irian Jaya chapters insisted on having only one presidential candidate, while the other provinces suggested between two to three names.

Akbar refused to be nominated. "That would be better for me," he said.

He also said the congress recommended that a party leadership meeting be held to decide on one name only.

The party's central board is to meet on Thursday to set the date for the leadership meeting, he said.

Deputy chairman Agung Laksono said the congress required presidential candidates to have experience in administration.

"Our candidate is required to have experience in administration, a person who is 'selling' in the election campaigning," he said.

Separately, two experts warned on Wednesday that Golkar, making use of the great resources at its disposal and the tacit support of the military, would win the elections and maintain the political status quo in the style of Soeharto's New Order regime, at the expense of democratization.

Heri Akhmadi and Rizal Ramli from the Institute of Public Affairs told a media conference that one possible alternative was for potential political parties such as the National Awakening Party (PKB), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) to establish a grand coalition before the election and win the support of swinging voters.

"Without a grand coalition between anti-status quo parties... it would be impossible to beat Golkar," said Heri, the institute's executive director. He estimated Golkar could still win 31 percent of the vote.

He described how Golkar, for the recent opening of its congress, was able to mobilize a large number of people "through money politics".

He said the established practice of using coercion and "consensus" with the military would bring support Golkar. The fact that ABRI and regional representatives (who are traditionally Golkar supporters) will make up 34 percent of the 500-seat House will enable Golkar to easily remain in power, he said.

The three parties -- PKB, PAN and PDI Perjuangan -- should coalesce and campaign so people are not attracted to Golkar, he said.

"We think that would be the best strategy: beating it at its own game," he said. "This coalition must be established before the (June 7 elections). Otherwise, it will be too late. Golkar would already win."

In its study, the institute described about 60 percent of eligible voters as "swinging voters", who could easily give their votes to any party. The remaining 40 percent were already supporters of certain parties.

The undecided voters are conservative people, Rizal said.

He said the 48 contesting parties were too many, and could easily confuse voters. "People have the tendency to play it safe and choose a familiar, leading and experienced party (namely Golkar)," he speculated. "Nobody wants to ride a losing horse. In real politics, people are opportunists. That is why a coalition is needed."

The study estimated that the strong contenders, Golkar excluded, would be able to gain only an average of 10 percent of the votes each.

The prediction of vote distribution was as follows: the United Development Party (PPP) 9 percent, PKB 15 percent, PAN 16 percent, PDI Perjuangan 21 percent. Other Islamic parties would together get 6 percent of votes and nationalist parties would share 7 percent.

"We will be doomed if Golkar wins the election again... The social, political and economic costs the people would have to bear would be too expensive," Rizal said.

A coalition of poll contenders could be promoted through joint campaigning, a common political platform and through power sharing, Heri noted.

He cited an occasion when PDI Perjuangan held a rally in Surabaya, and members of PAN and PKB helped secure the event.

According to Heri, the PAN has middle-class Muslim supporters in urban areas, along with Muhammadiyah grassroots supporters. And the PKB main power base are the Nahdlatul Ulama followers, mostly in rural areas.

The study revealed that both PDI Perjuangan and PKB enjoy strong support in Java, 24 percent and 21 percent respectively. The PAN and Golkar enjoy 19 and 42 percent of support respectively in areas outside of Java.

They were now competing to win back the support of people who had during the New Order regime voted for Golkar, he said.

However, he said the personalities of party leaders may pose a problem to a united election campaign.

"Party figures such as Amien Rais, Megawati Soekarnoputri and Abdurrahman Wahid have big egos... because of the press (so they might refuse a coalition)," Rizal said. (edt)