Mon, 15 Dec 2003

Spat among Sukarno's daughters regrettable: Expert

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The candidacy of three daughters of founding president Sukarno in the 2004 elections would be more appreciated if they stood as a single political force carrying Sukarno's nationalist principles, an observer said on Saturday.

Cornelis Lay of Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University said a coalition party combining Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Rachmawati Soekarnoputri's Pioneers' Party and Sukmawati Soekarnoputri's Marhaenisme Indonesian National Party (PNI Marhaenisme) would unite all supporters of nationalist principles and would emerge as a serious contender in next year's elections.

"They would represent all groups that are now divided by their perception of Sukarno's teachings, ranging from the conservative as represented by Rachmawati's party to the less radical supporters represented by the PDI-P." he said.

Cornelis said the rivalry among the daughters would make it impossible for them to enter into a possible coalition.

"The rivalry will not be a threat at all to the country, however, as it would not provoke clashes among the supporters of the three parties," said Cornelis, who is also a member of Megawati's think tank.

The PDI-P, Pioneers' Party and PNI Marhaenisme will contest the 2004 elections along with 21 other verified parties.

Each of the three sisters claims to have the correct understanding of Sukarno's principles of nationalism and are using the grassroots' admiration for Indonesia's founding father to win support.

Rachmawati has been a staunch critic of the Megawati administration and has built solid ties with National Awakening Party (PKB) cofounder Abdurrahman Wahid, who was replaced by his deputy Megawati after the People's Consultative Assembly impeached him in July 2001.

Marhaenism is Sukarno's term for peasant in the country, whom he claimed to be the main supporters of his principles.

Cornelis said among Sukarno's daughters, Megawati was the only one who already had established political support at the grass roots.

"The other two are simply seeking acknowledgement that they are also Sukarno's daughters," Cornelis said.

Other experts dismissed as a non-issue the presence of Sukarno's daughters in the 2004 elections, saying that their emergence did not represent a revival of Sukarno's teachings.

Underlining the fact that none of the three daughters had the capacity or ability that came anywhere near their father's, the experts said that their presence would not have any impact on the political life of the country.

"Their presence (in the upcoming elections) is not an issue at all," said political observer Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia.

However, according to Arbi, none of three Sukarno daughters fully understood the teachings of Sukarno "so people should just ignore the fact they lead different political parties that will contest the next elections."

"Their presence will have no impact at all to the political arena in the country, people might as well ignore them," Arbi said.

Senior politician from Megawati's party PDI-P Muchtar Buchori said that none of the daughters really understood their father's principles.

"None of them have the ability to revitalize these teachings in a more meaningful way for the country and we have gotten over the personality cult of Sukarno," Muchtar said.

Indonesia will hold its legislative election in April 2004 and its direct presidential election in July. If the first round of the presidential election fail to produce a clear winner, a second round is to be held in September 2004 to choose between the two candidates who garnered the most votes in the first round.