Tanjung voted in ‘to ensure stability’

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

Golkar chiefs opted for the pro-Habibie candidate to maintain national stability and continuity in policies.

IT WAS a vote for stability and continuity – two factors that were uppermost in the minds of Golkar provincial leaders who elected State Secretary Akbar Tanjung for the post of party chairman yesterday.

Golkar executives told The Straits Times that they cast their ballots for President B.J. Habibie’s preferred candidate because he would not challenge the new administration on issues which in the long-run could only delay recovery of the Indonesian economy.

“What we wanted to avoid is having the leader of the largest political party in the country at loggerheads with the government,” said Mr Tanri Abeng, the Minister of State Enterprises.

“That will only breed more instability.”

Analysts said that Mr Tanjung’s rival for the post, retired general Edi Sudradjat, whose name was forwarded by supporters of former president Suharto, was not too predisposed to Dr Habibie and his policies.

In fact, military sources here said that senior active officers in the influential armed forces (Abri) threw their weight behind Mr Tanjung because he was “someone who would not clash” with the President on national issues.

“Abri will not back any candidate but several senior officers are more comfortable with a Golkar chairman that supports this government,” said a senior military source.

Mr Tanjung, the President’s right hand man by virtue of his appointment in Cabinet as State Secretary, gave a clear indication of his support for the new administration in a pamphlet distributed at the three-day Golkar congress.

He said that his main agenda was to revive the country’s battered economy.

“Golkar’s programme to overcome the economic crisis is the top priority,” he said.

“We have to find ways of improving people’s earnings, overcoming unemployment and poverty, and guaranteeing people’s basic needs.”

He had earlier told The Straits Times that if he was elected, he would “give the government solid support” in its political reform efforts. In the pamphlet, he vowed to push for greater freedom, transparency and to end corruption and nepotism.

Political observers noted that in addition to being pro-Habibie, he also represented a stream within Golkar pushing to modernise the party and detach its links with the military.

Said a Jakarta-based diplomat: “It is the beginning of a long process to convert Golkar into a genuine political party and the signs are good because a party man is in charge and not any old retired general.

Golkar members point to Mr Tanjung’s long association with politics and the party as an asset. He first rose to prominence in the 60s when as an engineering student with the University of Indonesia, he joined the student movement which together with Abri pressured founding president Sukarno to step down.

He then went on to lead the Indonesian Muslim Students Association in the early 70s and the Golkar-aligned National Youth Committee between 1978 and 1981.

He served as a Golkar member of parliament from 1977 to 1988, representing East Java and later became a party executive.

Said Mr Din Syamsuddin, also a longtime Golkar member: “Akbar Tanjung has extensive grassroots support. We need someone like him to win votes in the general election.”

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