Sat, 05 Apr 2003

PDI-P scouts for election partner

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), the country's largest political party, plans to join forces with other parties to ensure it maintains control of the country's top post during next year's landmark direct presidential election.

Keeping all its options open by not specifying which parties it was considering, PDI Perjuangan said it might forge alliances with more than one party to secure the presidency.

PDI Perjuangan's Jacob Tobing said on Friday no agreement had been reached on who would team up with the party's presidential candidate, Megawati Soekarnoputri, the incumbent President.

Party leaders concluded a three-day meeting on Thursday during which they calculated their chances in the 2004 direct presidential election. The meeting, which followed up the party's national meeting last month, set the criteria for any parties PDI Perjuangan might form an alliance with. Among the requirements are similar ideologies and a commitment to pluralism.

"On top of all the criteria, any coalition must not jeopardize the unity of party constituents," Jacob told The Jakarta Post.

He said the party leadership was considering possible alliances because PDI Perjuangan's stronghold was Java island, which on its own would not give the party the strength to win the presidency.

The amended Constitution stipulates that to be elected president a candidate requires a simple majority of the vote from at least half of the country's provinces.

"That is why we have to concentrate on garnering support outside of Java," Jacob said.

The presidential election bill now being deliberated at the House of Representatives says any coalition must be announced before the election.

Jacob's remarks confirmed recent speculation that PDI Perjuangan was eying Muslim-based parties such as the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Awakening Party (PKB), or the Golkar Party as partners for the 2004 presidential election.

However, each of these parties comes with drawbacks, which might be why PDI Perjuangan, which won 35 percent of the vote in the 1999 general election, has still not made an announcement.

The Golkar Party, despite meeting all of the criteria set by PDI Perjuangan, carries the ghosts of the New Order regime, which PDI Perjuangan clashed with before the reform movement forced long-time ruler and Golkar chief patron Soeharto to step down in 1998.

One PDI Perjuangan official, who asked to remain anonymous, said many of the party's constituents remained skeptical of Golkar's commitment to reform.

PPP, which is led by Vice President Hamzah Haz, could be an ideal partner for PDI Perjuangan given its stronghold in Kalimantan. However, its Islamic ideology could spoil that partnership.

The PKB was a useful partner for PDI Perjuangan in the last elections, but with that party winning a relatively small percentage of the vote in 1999 and given the bitterness between the two since the ouster of Abdurrahman Wahid from the presidency in 2001, any future alliances are questionable.

Abdurrahman, who is PKB's chief patron, was replaced by Megawati.

PDI Perjuangan treasurer Noviantika Nasution said that during the recent meeting, party leaders also discussed the selection of legislative candidates for the 2004 elections.

"Our members from all branches across the country must be ready for the direct election," she said.