Monday, March 24, 2014

Inner-circle battles to influence Megawati’s VP pick

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) supreme leader Megawati Soekarnoputri sat on a throne designated to her during a visit to a sacred Hindu temple in Tabanan, Bali, on Saturday.

The stage was set for her as a show of her allure before hundreds of PDI-P supporters, whom she typically referred to as wong cilik, a Javanese slang term for the grassroots.

Despite the overwhelming enthusiasm of her supporters, Megawati barely spoke a word after she was recently praised for her statesmanship in giving the party’s presidential nomination ticket to Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Her silence again stoked swirling speculation of her anxiety in making yet another crucial decision; naming Jokowi’s running mate.

With analysts widely referring to decision-making within the PDI-P as feudalistic, only a few selected people who have direct access to Megawati fully understand how the business is run.

Sources within the party told The Jakarta Post that besides her children Prananda Prabowo and Puan Maharani, Megawati relied heavily on advice from Rini Mariani Soemarmo, Megawati’s trade minister during her stint as president from 2001 to 2004.

Rini, former president director of diversified giant PT Astra International, was said to communicate with her on an almost daily basis.

“BFF [best friend forever] is the best term to describe their relationship,” said a PDI-P politician.

Within the party structure, PDI-P secretary-general Tjahjo Kumolo takes the lead when it comes to giving advice.

A seasoned Golkar Party politician in the days of the New Order regime, Tjahjo jumped ship to the PDI-P not long after the Soeharto regime crumbled during the 1998 reform movement.

It did not take long for Tjahjo to gain Megawati’s trust and be appointed PDI-P faction chairman at the House of Representatives in 1999. Megawati named Tjahjo the party’s secretary-general to replace Pramono Anung during the party’s congress in 2010.

Megawati’s long-time friend Pramono has been a House deputy speaker since 2009, and still has vast influence not only on Megawati but also on the party.

PDI-P deputy secretaries-general Hasto Kristianto and Ahmad Basarah are also among Megawati’s inner circle from whom she has regularly sought advice.

Hasto, who frequently functions as party spokesman, is often entrusted by Megawati to lead the campaign programs of PDI-P members running in regional head elections.

Senior party politician Sabam Sirait and son Maruarar are in the club as well, with Maruarar regularly spotted at Megawati’s home on Jl. Teuku Umar, Central Jakarta.

If the PDI-P reigns in 2014, sources within the party said that Maruarar would be made the youth and sports minister.

Party sources also said that Megawati listened to the advice of Sidarto Danusubroto, the speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Sidarto, along with Sabam, are highly regarded by Megawati as they were friends of her father, Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno.

As vested interests loom, a source within the party said that there was polarization within the inner circle in regards to the nomination of the party’s vice presidential candidate.

PDI-P elites are confident that the party will win the legislative election with more than 20 percent of the vote, thereby enabling it to nominate candidates for president and vice president without having to forge a coalition.

But several ministerial positions will be provided to non-party members to form a coalition to facilitate the party’s interests at the House.

Numerous sources familiar with the issue said that Jokowi’s potential running mate could be either a civilian or a military figure.

Among the strongest candidates from the military is former Indonesian Army chief of staff Gen. (ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu, who is known as a short-sighted, tough general.

In the civilian category, former vice president and former Golkar Party chairman Jusuf Kalla is at the top of the list.

Several PDI-P elites would prefer someone like Ryamizard, a Megawati loyalist, while others prefer Kalla for his proficiency in business and economic development, according to the source.

Hasto, however, denied there had been an internal PDI-P discussion on the candidacy.

“We want to win the legislative election first. That is our main focus for now,” Hasto said.

Hasto added that he believed Jokowi needed a partner with a “strong and firm” character.

Senior PDI-P politician Bambang Wuryanto said that Megawati would have the final say on who would run with Jokowi.

“Despite having a full mandate to make the final decision, Bu Mega will also ask for input, including from Jokowi,” Bambang said.

Bambang also denied that the PDI-P was divided between those who were pro-military and anti-military.

“The party is not divided. Yes, there are different perspectives, but these will be addressed and discussed. When a final decision has been made, all of us will fully support it. In conclusion, there is only one faction — the Megawati faction,” he said.

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