Wed, 12 Mar 2003

PDI Perjuangan considers coalition by offering VP seat in 2004 election

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) is seeking a vice presidential candidate, possibly from outside the party, to be President Megawati Soekarnoputri's running mate in the 2004 presidential election as it has realized that it cannot secure the country's No. 1 position without entering into a coalition arrangement with another major party.

Reckoning that the PDI Perjuangan will not win a simple majority as it did in the 1999 general election, it is preparing an alternative scenario involving a coalition with another party so that the two of them could win a simple majority in the general election, as well as take the presidency and vice presidency.

"We are adding up all the possibilities and we will likely need to enter into a coalition with other parties to win the presidential election," the party's treasurer Noviantika Nasution said on Tuesday.

She declined to name any politicians or influential figures with whom the party would like to contest the presidential election.

Any coalition would only be possible if the two parties shared the same political platform and ideology, she added.

The party's deputy secretary-general, Pramono Anung Wibowo, said that Megawati had the final say about who her running mate would be.

"At this meeting we were just listening to our members' opinions. The final decision will rest in the hands of the executive board and Megawati herself," Pramono said on the sidelines of a party working meeting, which is scheduled to last until Thursday.

The PDI Perjuangan won 35 percent of the votes in the 1999 election, but Megawati only got the vice presidency. With the political support of Golkar, Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur as he is familiarly known, won the indirect presidential election following his nomination by Muslim-based parties.

When Abdurrahman was ousted by the People's Consultative Assembly in 2001, ostensibly for incompetence, Megawati was finally elevated to the presidency.

Learning from this experience, the PDI Perjuangan has set specific criteria for the selection of its vice presidential candidate.

These criteria are among the matters to be discussed during the party's four-day national meeting, which was opened by chairwoman Megawati on Monday.

Unconfirmed reports say that the vice presidential nomination may go to Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Jusuf Kalla of the Golkar Party.

Kalla has confirmed his readiness to be nominated by Golkar to contest the presidential election while Susilo is keeping mum as regards his possible nomination for the vice presidency.

Susilo is a retired four-star general, who lost out to Hamzah Haz in the 2001 indirect vice presidential election. He is currently not officially associated with any political party.

His popularity among ordinary people is unquestioned, and he is seen as a calm figure capable of dealing with the various security problems facing the country.

Jusuf is a prominent member of Golkar and has a strong influence in the eastern part of Indonesia.

On the second day of the working meeting, Megawati criticized members for the party's tarnished image and challenged them to win the people's support before next year's elections.

She said that she was upset that discipline in the party was less than it should be, something that could affect the party's performance in the elections.

"How can we win the elections if you cannot follow simple party regulations," Megawati said during the closed-door meeting on Tuesday, according to a party worker.

Some party workers immediately leaked her speech to journalists even though she had ordered them not to divulge it to the public.