Wed, 23 Jul 2003

PDI Perjuangan strives to save unity

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post, Semarang

With the general election drawing near, the cracks within the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) are spreading following the dismissal of the party's Central Java chief Mardijo.

Mardijo, who is the speaker of the provincial legislature, was removed from the local chapter's helm for contesting the gubernatorial election without the consent of party chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri. Also dismissed was his secretary Wuwuh Beno Nugroho.

Disciplinary action taken by Megawati had previously cost party councillors in Jakarta, Surabaya and Lampung their places in the party for defying her orders.

Mardijo now joins Tarmidi Suharjo in Jakarta and 13 councillors in Lampung as PDI Perjuangan politicians who have received their marching orders for insubordination in connection with gubernatorial elections in their respective provinces.

The next such move may be in Bali as PDI Perjuangan councillors in the province have defied Megawati's order to support the reelection of Governor Dewa Beratha.

The incidents of insubordination have been taking place in provinces known as PDI Perjuangan strongholds, putting the party on notice that it might need to work extra hard to maintain unity among its supporters and, on top of that, retain at least the 34 percent of the vote it won in the 1999 general election in next year's polls.

Megawati, who is also the President, has always recommended the renomination of the incumbents when it comes to gubernatorial elections for reasons that she has never publicly disclosed. But Imam Utomo reportedly promised to help the PDI Perjuangan in exchange for the party's full support for his reelection as East Java governor last week.

While other dissidents remained silent following their dismissals by the party, Mardijo announced on Tuesday he would challenge Megawati's decision in court.

"The decision to fire me and my secretary is obviously in violation of the party statutes," Mardijo told a media conference in Semarang.

He has named lawyers from the Indonesian Defenders of Democracy Team (TPDI) to represent him in the legal fight in the Administrative Court in Jakarta. The TPDI comprises lawyers who represented the PDI Perjuangan in seeking justice during the time of the New Order regime.

"I was not elected by the party central board, so they cannot just dismiss me without holding a regional conference, which is the proper mechanism," Mardijo said.

Megawati has named party deputy chairman Gunawan Wirosarojo and deputy secretary-general Pramono Anung Wibowo to replace Mardijo and Wuwuh respectively.

Mardijo downplayed his dismissal as the number one in the party's provincial chapter as he braces himself for the gubernatorial election on Thursday.

"I'm committed to upholding democracy. In the event of a war, if the general refuses to make peace, it will be the corporal who goes into the battlefield," he said cryptically.

Mardijo has been nominated by the PDI Perjuangan faction and picked Hisyam Ali of the United Development Party (PPP) as his running mate, although Hisyam is also teamed up with the PPP's gubernatorial candidate, Slamet Kirbiantoro.

Although supported by Megawati, incumbent governor Mardiyanto has been officially nominated by the National Awakening Party (PKB) along with Ali Mufis as his running mate. The National Mandate Party has nominated Hadi Pranoto and Djoko Wahyudi.

With 44 seats on the legislature, the PDI Perjuangan vote seems set to divide following Mardijo's dismissal, with 25 votes likely going to Mardiyanto, who will also enjoy the support of all 16 PKB councillors to secure his reelection.

Over 3,000 military and police personnel will be deployed to maintain order during the election on Thursday, with all 100 councillors being checked into the luxury Patra Jasa Hotel from Tuesday until the day of the vote, ostensibly for security reasons.