Megawati stakes claim to power

She breaks four-week silence to say that Indonesia’s people have given her the mandate to lead the country.

OPPOSITION leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, breaking a four-week silence after Indonesia’s historic election, staked her claim to power by declaring that Indonesians have given her the mandate to lead the country.

Speaking in an interview with the weekly Tajuk magazine, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding father, Sukarno, brushed aside suggestions from some Islamic scholars that a woman should not lead the world’s most populous Muslim nation and accused them of trying to discredit her.

“If the people have ever had any doubts, then the truth is out now with the election results,” she said. “The people have given me the mandate to fulfil their wish to lead the country towards a new Indonesia with a new spirit, mentality and views.”

Such rare comments come after officials from parties allied to Ms Megawati criticised her for standing aloof from the post-election horse-trading.

While key political personalities, like President B.J. Habibie and Islamic scholar Abdurrahman Wahid, have been grabbing headlines with statements on the election and possible coalitions, the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (Struggle), or PDI-P, has kept her cards close to her chest.

Her supporters argue that she is simply waiting for the formal vote count, which currently estimates her party has at least 35 per cent of the vote, way ahead of the ruling Golkar party and its 20 per cent share.

Why the change now? Analysts believe her comments to Tajuk might have been made “out of a sense that she and her party are losing the momentum in the face of attacks from their rivals”.

Noted a Western diplomat: “They know they are leading the race. But they also know that two out of three Indonesians did not vote for them and that the presidency is not a given.

“Megawati’s enemies are also attacking her credentials to be leader. She now realises she will have to fight for what she perceives is her legitimate right to the leadership.”

During the interview, she said that she would ask for support from all political parties that are “pro-reform, pro-democracy and anti-status quo”.

But instead of a multi-party coalition that she warned could crumble if one party backs out, she said that she wanted “agreements between parties to take up mutual responsibilities in running the government”.

Asked about the possibility of an Islamic bloc in Parliament voting against her in favour of Dr Habibie, she replied confidently: “Who backs who, it’s every legislator’s political right.

“But personally, I believe that in their conscience they know exactly what the people want. God will always side the right person.”

That confidence was also reflected in her expectation that the armed forces, which has 38 seats in the People’s Consultative Assembly, would throw its weight behind her.

“I believe that the military belongs to the people and will forever side with them,” she said.

“I am also sure that from the election result, the head of the military can see clearly what the people want … “

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