Sat, 10 Jul 2004

Top parties intensify efforts for coalition

Kurniawan Hari, Jakarta

The nation's two largest parties are intensifying efforts to explore a coalition aimed at giving incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri a second five-year term in office.

Megawati's husband, Taufik Kiemas, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), met with Golkar Party leader Akbar Tandjung on Friday at the House of Representatives.

The meeting took place as PDI-P leader Megawati looks certain to challenge election frontrunner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the Sept. 20 run-off.

Before the meeting, Taufik and Akbar, who is also the House Speaker, performed Friday prayers at the House's Baiturrahman mosque.

Taufik refused to comment on what he called an "accidental meeting" with Akbar.

The Golkar head also denied speculation the meeting was a signal a coalition was solidifying between the parties ahead of the runoff.

"We have no plans as yet for a coalition because we have to wait until the final results of the presidential election are announced," Akbar said.

Some political analysts have predicted Golkar would likely coalesce with the PDI-P instead of supporting Susilo and his Democratic Party in second round of the presidential race.

Akbar, who was acquitted of all graft charges by the Supreme Court earlier this year -- despite being convicted by two lower courts, was close to Megawati, they said.

The Golkar leader would not form a coalition with Susilo because his Democratic Party had voiced opposition to Golkar's convention, which Akbar had spearheaded to select its presidential candidates, analyst Eep Saefulloh Fatah said.

However, Eep and other political scientists said coalitions between parties would not necessarily ensure their nominated presidential candidates won. So far in the presidential elections, statistics indicate voters have voted less on party lines and more on how they perceived individual candidates.

Meanwhile, Golkar's Bomer Pasaribu told a discussion the possibility was still wide open Golkar could form a coalition with either the Democratic Party or the PDI-P.

"We have had communications with the PDI-P and the Democratic Party. But, a coalition must produce an effective government," Bomer said.

The Megawati camp has also indicated it was willing to form a coalition with Golkar.

Irmadi Lubis, a member of Megawati's campaign team, said Megawati would form coalitions with political parties that had similar platforms.

"We have to coalesce with political parties that fight for democracy and civil supremacy. Therefore, the ideal coalition is between the PDI-P and Golkar," he was quoted by Antara as saying.

Irmadi and Bomer said the coalition should aim at forming an effective government under the new president.

The possible PDI-P-Golkar coalition would make up 237 seats in the House. If the coalition also won support from the National Awakening Party (PKB), the camp would have 289 seats or 52 percent of the 550 House members.

Susilo's new Democratic Party, meanwhile, only has 55 seats in the House.

If the Democratic Party joined forces with Golkar and the PKB they would only have 236 votes in the House.

In an attempt to win PKB support, PDI-P legislator Heri Ahmadi said his party would facilitate a meeting between Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid and Hasyim Muzadi to reconcile them.

Gus Dur, the PKB board chief of patrons, has been embroiled in a feud with Hasyim since the non-active Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader was picked by Megawati as her running mate in the presidential election.

Hazairin Sitepu, Susilo's campaign team member, said his camp was consolidating for the September runoff by making informal approaches to all groups.

"We are building political communications with all groups. We have not decided yet on coalitions with certain political parties," he told The Jakarta Post.

He said communications with leaders of political parties were made through personal approaches.