Fri, 05 Dec 2003

Politicians welcome Tutut's bid for presidential seat in 2004

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

State officials and politicians welcomed on Thursday former president Soeharto's eldest daughter Siti "Tutut" Hardiyanti Rukmana's plans to run for the presidency in next year's elections, stressing that democracy allowed anyone to join the presidential election.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, who has also been tipped to participate in the presidential race, said that it should be up to the people to decide on who is able to contest the elections.

"We should not immediately foresee the return of the old regime, let the people decide what is best for them," Susilo said when asked about Tutut's presidential ambition.

Tutut was asked to join next year's presidential race by the Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB), a party established by Gen. (ret) Raden Hartono under the order of former president Soeharto.

The party has passed the General Elections Commission's (KPU) factual verification and is considered to be eligible to join the elections in 2004.

Should she formally enter the race, Tutut will be contesting against incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri, a daughter of founding president Sukarno, in the upcoming 2004 direct election.

Susilo said the people would use their common sense to determine who was going to be their leader in the future.

"So let the people decide," the minister concluded.

National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Amien Rais, responded similarly, saying that in democracy all are welcome to join the presidential bid.

"There should be no problem as long as they enter the bid with good programs and not with money politics," Amien said as quoted by Antara.

Tutut's entry into the presidential race may change the country's political landscape in the 2004 elections.

Amien played down anxiety, saying that the people were more intelligent (than that) and would be able to elect the leader that the country's needed to survive.

Meanwhile, Golkar's deputy chairman Ginandjar Kartasasmita said Thursday that Tutut's candidacy would pose a new challenge for Golkar to maintain its constituents.

Tutut served as Golkar deputy chairman from 1993 through 1998 and the party was the main supporter of Soeharto's 32 years of leadership.

"This should be a challenge for us to maintain our constituent and it is the right of everybody to join the presidential race," Ginandjar said.