Tue, 24 Jun 2003

Support grows for Sultan's reelection as governor

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Hundreds of supporters of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X arrived at the provincial legislative council on Monday to express support for the sultan's reelection as the province's governor for the 2003-2008 period.

Among the supporters were heads of villages in Sleman regency, members of Sleman villages' legislative council (BPD) and Sleman Regent Ibnu Subiyanto. Ibnu, however, declined to admit that his presence among demonstrators was to express support for the sultan's reelection, arguing that he just wanted to hear his people's aspirations.

"They are my people. I, therefore, feel obliged to come to hear what they say. I myself will let the legislative council conduct the whole political process according to prevailing laws," Ibnu said.

Hamengkubuwono X, who was elected Yogyakarta governor in 1998, will end his term of office in October this year. The provincial legislative council is set to hold a gubernatorial election in August.

A special committee set up to prepare the election procedures finished its job last month. The final draft of the election procedures was supposed to have been approved early this month.

The special committee, comprising representatives from all factions in the council, had agreed to elect and not appoint a governor.

The scheduled plenary session for endorsing the final draft of the election procedures early this month was called off after four of the six factions in the legislature abandoned the session due to the presence of some 1,000 supporters of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X.

The sultan's supporters, mostly coming from Bantul regency, demanded that the legislature appoint the sultan directly as the governor instead of conducting an election.

Only the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar factions stayed. The two factions later changed their minds and demanded that the council directly appoint the sultan as governor and Pakualam IX as vice governor.

Speaking in front of supporters of the sultan from Sleman on Monday, Yogyakarta provincial legislative council speaker Soerasmo Priyandono said he would channel the people's aspirations through a plenary session rescheduled for this Saturday.

In a separate move, the PDI Perjuangan Yogyakarta provincial executive board also held an internal meeting here to prepare a strategy to ensure that the sultan is appointed rather than elected in a bid to maintain the province's special status.

Bantul Regent Idham Samawi reportedly also attended the internal meeting on Monday afternoon.

Even if there is an election, the sultan appears to be the strongest contender for the governorship.

At least four influential parties in the province, including PDI Perjuangan, Golkar, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party, announced earlier that they would name the sultan their candidate for the coming gubernatorial race.

"The reason why we want an election rather than appointment is that we want to assure that democracy exists in the province," chairman of the council's National Mandate faction Immawan Wahyudi said.