Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Kalla claims strong support for presidential candidacy

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla has declared himself ready to compete in the Golkar convention to select its presidential candidate in next year's election.

The minister said on Thursday that to compete in the convention he had gained the support of 10 of Golkar's provincial chapters. He did not mention which provinces, but the chapter in his home province South Sulawesi has announced its support for his candidacy.

"I am optimistic that I will emerge the winner of the convention. I would not run if I didn't have the confidence that I will win," he told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference on the 2004 holidays here.

South Sulawesi Governor and chairman of Golkar's chapter in the region Amien Syam, said chapters in Kalimantan, Jambi, West Sumatra and South Sumatra would join South Sulawesi in supporting Kalla's presidential bid.

Kalla said he had formed his team of success to assist him in his candidacy in the convention.

He refused to comment on whether he was prepared for a challenge from Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung.

Akbar, a convict in a graft case, has not officially announced his bid for the presidency. He met former president Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday and visited several of Nahdlatul Ulama's respected clerics in the West Java town of Cirebon on Tuesday in a move which many have linked to his desire to run for the presidency.

So far only former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto and Golkar deputy chairperson Marwah Daud Ibrahim have been registered by their supporters for the convention, which opened for accepting nominees last Friday.

Wiranto was nominated by a youth organization, Garda Muda Merah Putih, while Marwah was nominated by 100 people in Kutai, East Kalimantan. A candidate must win support from at least 500 people to compete in the convention.

Formerly a businessman, Kalla has all the credentials to win the candidacy, most notably his role as a mediator between warring Muslims and Christians in Maluku and the Central Sulawesi town of Poso. Some 8,000 people were killed in the sectarian conflict which dragged on between 1999 and 2002.

To woo popular support, Kalla will raise the issues of justice and eradication of corruption, collusion and nepotism as the main thrust of his campaign.

Kalla also said that if Golkar gained only 20 percent of the national vote and it decided to vie only for the vice presidency, he would be ready to be paired with candidates from any party.

Many have expected a coalition between ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and Golkar in the presidential election, with Megawati Soekarnoputri and Kalla deemed as a dream team.

Other names that have been put on the Golkar list of possible presidential candidates include respected Muslim scholar Nurcholish Madjid, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former commander of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto and Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X.

Golkar will short-list the candidates in October and will decide on its sole candidate during the national convention slated for February next year.

All figures proposed by party chapters and mass organizations will be asked to present their vision and mission in the provinces and regencies in the lead up to the national convention.