Habibie almost certain to be leading candidate
General Wiranto will be running mate, say sources, but Golkar will confirm decisions only after meeting.
INDONESIA’s ruling Golkar party appears all but certain to nominate Dr B.J. Habibie as its presidential candidate and the armed forces (Abri) chief, General Wiranto, as his running mate.
Ministerial sources told The Straits Times that while several Golkar elders and regional representatives had decided informally to back the incumbent for a five-year term since mid-January this year, they were not making their decision public until after the party’s leadership meeting.
The party had also decided to have a slate of four other candidates “as part of the wayang and to democratise the whole process”, said a Cabinet minister who is a Golkar executive member.
He said: “Technically, it is not correct to say he is the sole candidate. He is the leading candidate among others the party has chosen. But informally, a large number of us have already made up our minds that he should continue to be president.”
He added that the choice of Gen Wiranto as vice-president was more Dr Habibie’s personal preference than a party decision.
“Habibie is voluble. Wiranto is calm and steady. They’ll make a good combination,” he said.
He said a number of factors were in favour of the German-trained engineer, despite the handicap of his past association with former president Suharto.
The most critical was that State Secretary Akbar Tandjung, who is also a leading contender for the presidency, had thrown his weight behind Dr Habibie.
Mr Akbar has extensive grassroots links with organisations like the Indonesian Muslim Students’ Association and ties with party branches in several provinces.
“Given the circumstances and lack of support that former president Suharto would have otherwise got from the military, Habibie has done quite a good job of manoeuvring different groups and winning over the support of key individuals,” he said.
Another factor was that he had the support of most of the Golkar regional representatives outside Java, particularly in eastern Indonesia.
“They see him as a non-Javanese, and that is something very appealing for people who went through 32 years under a Javanese president,” said the source.
“There is also a sense that Habibie, if he is allowed to stay on, would be able to continue with the reform process he has started.”
But all is not smooth sailing for the President and his band of supporters which revolves around the Association of Muslim Intellectuals.
Analysts said that while he was strong in provinces outside Java, there were doubts over how much support he would get in Java – the political heartland of Indonesia.
The Cabinet source admitted that there were difficulties, especially in East Java, which he described as “the Archiles heel of Golkar and Habibie”.
Support for Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, the chairman of the Indonesia Democratic Party (PDI-Perjuangan), and the enigmatic Mr Abdurrahman Wahid of the Nadhlatul Ulama, were strong in these areas.
Besides this, there is a genuine challenge from within Golkar from a small group of urban-based intellectuals, like Mr Marzuki Darusman, the head of the party faction in Parliament.
Political observers said that while Dr Habibie “stood the best chance of being nominated”, Mr Akbar had “a 20 to 30 per cent possibility”, given his own strong backing within the party.
Said a source who attended a party meeting in Jakarta last week: “Mr Akbar will back Habibie for personal reasons. But problems will arise if Akbar’s supporters go against the wishes of their leader and reject Habibie at the upcoming leadership meeting.
“The issue here is whether Akbar will get them to toe the line to back Habibie or ride on their support and go for the throne himself. We can never discount the latter possibility.”
Golkar’s top contender
PROS * STATE Secretary Akbar Tandjung, a leading contender for the presidency, has thrown his weight behind him. * He has the support of most of the Golkar regional representatives outside of Java.
* His past association with former president Suharto.
* There are doubts over how much support he will get in Java – the political heartland of Indonesia. There are difficulties especially in East Java, where support for Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri and Mr Abdurrahman Wahid are strong.
* There is genuine challenge from within Golkar from a small group of urban-based intellectuals like Mr Marzuki Darusman, the head of the party faction in Parliament.