Fri, 04 May 2001

PDI-P leadership

Virtually all the major political parties have warmed to the initiative of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) for their leaders to meet to discuss the future of the nation. The idea for the meeting came following Tuesday's PDI Perjuangan executive board meeting led by chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is also the country's Vice President.

It came a day after the House of Representatives (DPR) issued a second memorandum to rebuke President Abdurrahman Wahid for his leadership failings. In broaching the idea, PDI Perjuangan leaders did not outline a clear agenda for the meeting other than saying that it is intended for the political leaders to explore various steps following the second memorandum. Since the House's censure reflected an acute leadership crisis in Indonesia, there is no doubt in anybody's mind that the meeting, which is expected to take place next week, will discuss the possibility of some kind of transition of power from the embattled Abdurrahman.

While the majority of the political parties have agreed on the need for changes in the national leadership, they have yet to come to a conclusion on the exact nature of these changes. Three possible scenarios most widely discussed today are: the resignation of Abdurrahman, his removal by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), and a power sharing arrangement. Either of these options will push Megawati Soekarnoputri to the forefront. Constitutionally, the vice president will succeed the president if the latter is incapacitated in any way.

That the initiative for the meeting should come from PDI Perjuangan is only appropriate. This is not only because its chairperson Megawati is looking more and more likely to succeed Abdurrahman, but also because PDI Perjuangan, which won the 1999 general election, has the largest representation in the House.

More than any other political faction, PDI Perjuangan is best placed to take the initiative and the leadership in hammering out the political compromises that are needed today to take Indonesia out of its predicament. In retrospect, had PDI Perjuangan taken the same initiative after it won the general election nearly two years ago, it might have clinched the presidency in October 1999.

In taking the initiative and the leadership, PDI Perjuangan today appears to have also overcome the psychological barrier that has haunted it because of Megawati's position as Vice President. As the deputy to the President, Megawati must continue to show her unflinching loyalty to Abdurrahman. Although she will become the beneficiary of his downfall, she must not be seen as taking any part in the current drive to remove him from office.

At a time when the President is coming under increasing pressure, Megawati has managed to stand by him in such a way that no one can accuse her of being disloyal. How long she can manage to keep this posture remains questionable. She has started to distance herself from the President and at some stage in the near future, she might be forced to cut her ties with the President, lest she sink along with him.

In her capacity as head of the country's largest political party, she has her obligations to the nation. This means she and her party must take the lead and the initiative whenever called upon. It is in this context, at a time when the national leadership is facing a crisis, that PDI Perjuangan's proposal for a meeting must be seen. This was also the context which had led Megawati to let her party take part in the various moves to rebuke the President on two occasions in the last three months.

Some people, even many within PDI Perjuangan, may find the party leaders to be moving too slowly. But Megawati has been consistent in following the laws and the Constitution to the letter in just about every step she took. Nobody could accuse her of ever violating the Constitution. This says a lot about a woman who might soon become Indonesia's next president.

Whatever emerges from the meeting between the leaders of the major political parties next week, we welcome the emergence of a more assertive and proactive PDI Perjuangan, including its chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri, something that is only commensurate with its position as the largest political party in the country. The party and its leaders, including Megawati, owe it to the nation to lead Indonesia out of the present crisis.