Tue, 29 Jul 2003

PDI-P cadre withdraws bid for Bali governorship

I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Anak Agung Ngurah Oka Ratmadi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) said on Monday he would not seek the governorship of Bali, after failing to win the backing of party leader President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"After deep contemplation, and to respect the request made by Ibu Megawati, I will not pursue my candidacy," he said in an emotional speech.

Ratmadi made the announcement before dozens of his supporters in PDI Perjuangan, who gathered at his ancestral home of Puri Satria in downtown Denpasar.

"I call on all party cadres and supporters to remain calm and maintain order," he said.

A die-hard party member, Ratmadi, who is currently the regent of Badung, was nominated for the governorship by the PDI Perjuangan faction in the Bali legislative council, which controls 39 of 55 seats.

However, Megawati, in her role as party chairwoman, issued a letter dated July 21 ordering PDI Perjuangan councillors to back incumbent Governor Dewa Made Beratha for another five-year term.

The PDI Perjuangan central board has also thrown its support behind Beratha, whom they want to see pair up with party councillor Alit Kelakan for the gubernatorial election, scheduled for Aug. 6.

Ratmadi's sudden withdrawal shocked his supporters, many of whom shed tears at hearing the announcement.

Councillor Alit Bagiasna, one of the supporters, said he would respect Ratmadi's decision, which he called a "cadre's expression of loyalty and obedience" to his party.

However, Bagiasna said: "We believe that in the future the (PDI Perjuangan) chairperson's prerogative to nominate gubernatorial candidates should be abolished."

"Now it is our duty to explain this development to the grassroots supporters. It surely won't be an easy task," he said.

Ratmadi's announcement defused rising political tension caused by Megawati's letter. Initially, PDI Perjuangan councillors refused to accept the order and nominated Ratmadi, paired with influential party councillor Agus Suradnyana.

Angered by the letter from Megawati, hundreds of Ratmadi supporters staged demonstrations to denounce any interference by the party's central board in the election.

The protests also put pressure on Bali PDI Perjuangan chairman IB Wesnawa to acknowledge Ratmadi as the party's sole candidate.

Wesnawa, who is also the speaker of the Bali legislative council and a childhood friend of the incumbent governor, bowed to the demonstrators wishes and submitted the names of Ratmadi and his running mate to the gubernatorial election committee.

Then, following a meeting with Megawati on Friday night in Jimbaran, numerous PDI Perjuangan councillors seemed to have a change of heart about the election.

In the brief meeting, Megawati stressed that all party councillors must follow her order to back the election of Beratha.

The head of the PDI Perjuangan fraction in the council, Usdek Maharipa, said it was the duty of all faction members to vote for Dewa Beratha and Alit Kelakan.

The low-profile Beratha gained popularity with the party's elite in 1998 when he allowed PDI Perjuangan, then still considered a dissenting political force, to hold a national congress in Bali.