Sat, 25 Mar 2000

'Political tragedy' dogs PDI Perjuangan

SEMARANG (JP): Alleged money politics and an internal rift have cast a shadow over the maiden congress of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), which begins on Sunday.

Calling the turbulent prelude "a political tragedy", noted political observer Johanes Kristiadi warned the party on Friday of a major setback in the next general election if it failed to agree on a radical reform within itself.

Deputy chairman of the party, Dimyati Hartono, underscored the need for PDI Perjuangan to change, otherwise it would lose the trust of the people who helped the party win in last year's polls.

"The internal feuding and the scandals have a lot to do with the executive board's dominating role and the undemocratic condition within the party," he said.

Both Kristiadi and Dimyati were responding to attempts to block certain party members from running for the top post which will be on offer during the congress between March 26 and April 1.

Dimyati expressed his concern over reports of rampant money politics involving PDI Perjuangan legislators in the Sumatra cities of Medan and Lampung, and the Central Java cities of Semarang and Boyolali.

"The scandals constitute a serious crisis that could jeopardize the party's future," Dimyati said in a seminar in the coastal town of Pekalongan, Central Java.

The party's central board of executives have suspended all 16 representatives in the Medan legislature for allegedly throwing away a race for the mayor post for money. The legislators said they were forced to confess to taking bribes of Rp 25 million each.

Dimyati also suspected that many members of the executive board practiced money politics in selecting the branches' delegations to the congress.

"Money politics could be detected in the branches' meetings to determine their delegations to the congress. A number of local functionaries exerted terror and intimidation in determining their delegations," he said.

Kristiadi, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), suggested that the party push for fundamental changes to maintain its popularity in the future.

Speaking at a seminar here, he said the party failed to take political advantage of its success in last year's general election.

"The party, for example, dominates many provincial and regency legislatures, but they can not win any governor or regent elections," he said.

"It is not solely the party's failure, because we've inherited a system which does not enable political parties to develop well."

Separately, House of Representatives legislators representing PDI Perjuangan urged the congress to arrange a discussion on how to cope with the internal conflict and alleged scandals.

One of the legislators, Postdam Hutasoit, said the congress was expected to apply merits in its recruitment during the week- long congress.

"The congress has to be able to recruit new leaders who have both strong leadership and managerial skills to settle the existing internal conflicts and to make the party an agent of change for the sake of the people," he said.

Another legislator, Aberson Marle Sihaloho, raised his concern over the fact that the flaw-ridden electoral system had resulted in the poor quality of legislators at all levels of administration.

"Many uneducated activists have entered the legislative bodies because voters elected party symbols and not figures in the elections," he said.

Meanwhile, Jakob Tobing blamed the media for exaggerating the party's decision on Eros Djarot, one of the alternative candidates for the party's chief post. His departure to Semarang was prevented by the party's South Jakarta branch.

Jakob, like Postdam and Aberson, believed that incumbent chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri would win her reelection.

They said the party had no acceptable or capable figures other than Megawati to lead the party in the next election.

Aberson said Megawati's strength not only laid within her charisma but also in the party's vision and mission which was reflected in her personality.

"The party's mission and vision could be implemented under Megawati's leadership and this was proven in the last elections," he said.

PDI Perjuangan was established in May 1999, two months prior to the general election. (01/har/jun/rms)