Megawati supporters swamp Jakarta
Numbering over 100,000, they shout ‘Mega, Mega’ and wave red flags, in the largest turnout by any political party since election hustings began.
JAKARTA was painted red yesterday. Like blood flowing through the clogged arteries of roads leading to the heart of the city, more than 100,000 supporters of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (PDI-Struggle) in their trademark red rode in convoys of buses, cars and motorcycles from all corners of the capital as people cheered them on.
Shouting “Mega, Mega”, they waved red flags, banners and posters superimposed with leader Megawati Sukarnoputri’s face and the PDI-Struggle macho black bull symbol through the streets in the largest showing by any political party since election campaigning began last Wednesday.
Thousands of leaflets were also dropped from the sky by a helicopter chartered by the party as nine other parties taking part in the campaign in Jakarta yesterday were buried under the force of support for the daughter of Indonesia’s founding father and first president Sukarno.
Party rallies were carried out in a carnival-like atmosphere with songs and dangdut music revolving largely around Ms Megawati, who was portrayed as a cult figure.
“She has been a victim of the past regime and will show them now who is the true leader,” shouted a party leader through a loud hailer to cheers from rally supporters in West Jakarta. “Mega is our saviour. Only Mega can save the poor.”There was surprisingly very little troop presence except in shopping centres and key strategic points like the state palace and former president Suharto’s residence.
Most of the supporters, dressed in party garb with some even painting their faces red, clung on to overcrowded vehicles or walked on roads, defying a government ban on street rallies.
Most of the other parties have also broken this rule. Despite this, PDI-Struggle supporters surprisingly followed the directions of traffic policemen and party wardens attempting to keep the roads clear for other cars. There was no violence in the capital.
The frenzy of campaigning forced many shops to close yesterday, the retailers fearing clashes between rival party supporters.
Chinatown, still recovering from the wide scale rioting last May, was like a ghost town, with the exception of people standing by the roadside to cheer on the secular party.
Other parts of the country, however, experienced sporadic violence over the weekend. On the island of Bali, a bastion of PDI-Struggle support, fighting broke out between supporters of the ruling Golkar and Ms Megawati’s party. Police said four people were injured in the clashes.
Analysts believe that things could change in Jakarta today when the ruling Golkar and eight other parties campaign in the capital.
All 48 parties contesting the country’s first multi-party election in 50 years take turns to campaign in all 27 provinces. Several PDI-Struggle supporters told The Straits Times that after the party’s showing yesterday, Golkar would think twice “about showing their faces on the streets”.
Noted 29-year-old Anton Sularso, a die-hard Megawati follower: “We’ve had enough of Golkar and all the lies and corruption. It is time for a new government and a new president.”