Habibie offered as top Golkar candidate

The President, Wiranto, Muladi and Ginandjar are on the list unveiled by Golkar chairman for the presidency

THE ruling Golkar party has unveiled four names for the presidency, declaring incumbent Dr B.J. Habibie as its “strongest candidate”.

State Secretary Akbar Tandjung, who is also Golkar chairman, said Dr Habibie, Armed Forces (Abri) chief Wiranto, Justice Minister Muladi and Finance and Industry Minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita, were “superior” candidates because of their experience in government.

Cabinet and Golkar sources told The Straits Times yesterday that although the four names were announced, the main candidate was the German-trained engineer, with General Wiranto as his running mate for the presidential election scheduled for this November.

“It will be a Habibie-Wiranto duet for Golkar,” said a Cabinet minister, who did not want to be named. “The other two candidates are cosmetic additions. They are not serious alternatives.”

Mr Tandjung’s comments on Tuesday poured cold water on speculation that there was reluctance among some Golkar leaders to back the President for a full five-year term after the June election.

Some had argued that he would not be a popular choice because of perceptions that he was a Suharto crony. Similar views were also held of Gen Wiranto, an ex-adjutant to Mr Suharto.

But the ministerial source said several Golkar elders had concluded that Dr Habibie and his military commander were “the only realistic combination for continuity and change in Indonesia”.

He said: “There will only be stability if we strike a balance between reform and retaining elements of the previous regime.” He added that the next elected government would “continue to be transitional in nature”.

Senior military sources said that Abri would nominate Gen Wiranto as its candidate for the presidency or the No. 2 post. “He is Abri’s favourite son and it is logical that he will be our candidate,” a three-star general told The Straits Times. “The only question now is which political party is prepared to back him along with Abri.”

Golkar is expected to name its presidential candidate formally a month before the June 7 election for the 500-seat Parliament. The 500 MPs will join another 200 members in the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) to elect the new president and vice-president.

Political observers say the Habibie-linked Association of Muslim Intellectuals was largely responsible for pressuring Golkar members into nominating Dr Habibie.

Others, however, are sceptical of Mr Tandjung’s announcement, arguing that its main aim was to “test the choppy political waters”.

Noted a Jakarta-based analyst: “There are still many imponderables. Golkar is a large party and there are bound to be members who do not agree with Habibie as their leading candidate. They are going along with the flow to back him now. But can this momentum of support be sustained?”

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