Sun, 02 Mar 2003

Megawati says PDI-P will win election

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Regardless of the internal conflicts plaguing her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, President Megawati Soekarnoputri expressed her optimism that the party would come first in the 2004 general election.

"Whatever system will be applied in the upcoming election, I am sure we will win," Megawati told thousands of cheering party supporters who packed the Klabat Stadium in Manado.

She was visiting the North Sulawesi capital to attend a ceremony marking the party's 30th anniversary.

Megawati said the PDI Perjuangan would emulate its performance in the 1999 election, when it won 34 percent of the vote to finish first, due to the hard work and votes of its loyal supporters.

However, Megawati fell short of voicing her confidence of retaining the presidency.

Despite winning the most votes in 1999, Megawati failed to take the chief executive's post, which went to her then close friend Abdurrahman Wahid, and had to be content with the vice presidency. Megawati took over from Abdurrahman in July 2001 after the People's Consultative Assembly dismissed him, ostensibly for incompetence.

The nation will experience its first direct presidential election ever in 2004, just after the general election. Megawati has stated her intention of running in the race for the presidency.

The PDI Perjuangan was initially reluctant to accept the new presidential election system, claiming that the people were unready.

Megawati put mounting criticism of her style of governance behind her on Saturday, calling on her opponents to wait until 2004 to fight in the election.

"We are ready to contest the 2004 general election," Megawati shouted.

Her inspiring speech was ironic given that the party has been facing internal conflicts, which have led to a number of Megawati's key supporters quitting in disappointment at the party's direction.

More party members have been criticizing Megawati, and some of them have called for a special congress to replace her so as to allow her to focus on the affairs of state.

Early last week, senior party member Kwik Kian Gie said the PDI Perjuangan had become the most corrupt party since Megawati took office as president.

Megawati's husband, Taufik Kiemas, also warned on Friday that the party needed to improve its performance and focus on paying more attention to its constituents in order to claim a back-to- back win in next year's election.

During her speech on Saturday, Megawati also criticized the 30 percent quota for women legislative candidates as is stipulated in the Elections Law.

"As party chairwoman, I reject this because it appears to confirm that women can only be successful in politics out of charity," said Megawati, the country's first woman president.

"I was chosen as the president not because of pity but because the people needed me."

In her capacity as president, Megawati visited Bitung immediately after her arrival in North Sulawesi to take a closer look at a fishing port, fishing academy and an earth satellite station there.

The President also visited Manado to attend the opening ceremony of the Indonesian Christian Women's Organization (PWKI)'s national congress.

Among her entourage were husband Taufik Kiemas, maritime affairs and fishing minister Rokhmin Dahuri, forestry minister Mohamamd Prakosa, trade and industry minister Rini Suwandi and a number of party executives.