The Gus Dur-Megawati leadership – Minuses


FOREIGN investors heaved a sigh of relief when Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri secured the vice-presidency.

Teaming up with President Abdurrahman Wahid to form a popular and legitimate government was the best way to bring political stability to Indonesia and put a lid on violence across the country.

But the future is not so rosy for the two. Can they jointly turn the battered economy around?

Despite being perceived as long-time close friends, both are likely to face problems, not just in reviving the financial sector but in also running a modern government.

Said the director of a foreign investment firm here: “The market will rebound with the announcement of such a partnership. But a lot of businessmen are wondering whether the two of them have got what it takes to revive the economy.”

Mr Abdurrahman and Ms Megawati are really figureheads and political symbols to millions of Indonesians.

While they have espoused their political views, they seem less inclined towards economic issues. They are not hands-on managers.

But to some extent, that can be overcome with a team to advise them. There is no guarantee, however, that market liberals will be happy with their approach.

The Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (Struggle), or PDI-P, under Mr Kwik Kian Gie and Mr Laksamana Sukardi, would clearly be pushing for nationalistic-type policies.

The party, for example, has not been too supportive of privatising more state-owned enterprises. At one stage, it was also at odds with the International Monetary Fund, when Mr Kwik suggested pegging the rupiah currency.

He subsequently backtracked but it gave analysts an idea of the prevailing views of Ms Megawati’s supporters.

Mr Abdurrahman’s Nation Awakening Party (PKB) will focus on social and religious issues but it would have some bearing on economic discourse in the Cabinet, with calls for social justice.

So they might want to pursue more left-leaning policies. Despite these downsides, both sides value the role of the ethnic Chinese in reviving the economy.

Many Indonesian-Chinese businessmen are expected to put their money back into the country. The issue is whether they will be put off again by nationalist economic policies.

Despite a broad consensus, there will obviously be some friction between the two parties on other issues; it is uncertain how their leaders will manage this.

Ms Megawati and her President will not have problems finding common ground but their followers might have some difficulty in redressing them.

There will be little common ground, for example, on the place of religion, more specifically Islam, in Indonesia.

Although Mr Abdurrahman’s Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) is moderate in its stance on Islam, it will come under pressure from modernist Muslims in the Cabinet to push forth an agenda to ensure that Islam continues to grow as a political force.

Of critical importance here will be whether the President continues to perceive himself as NU leader, which could hold him hostage to the group’s interests.

A consequence of this is that he would be at loggerheads with the PDI-P and his Vice-President, who would want to espouse more secular policies.

Another possible point of contention is the Indonesian armed forces (TNI).

Both leaders want the military to reduce its role in politics by 2004.

PDI-P leaders, many of whom are not too receptive to the hawkish generals, are expected to take a more hardline approach to the matter.

There could be differences if there is an easing on the deadline and other special privileges given by Mr Abdurrahman who is perceived to be close to TNI chief General Wiranto and several senior army officers.

But all these issues will be kept in check by the close ties between the President and his No 2. There is a certain trust between both of them.

It is not clear whether the runoff to the presidency might have undermined this trust. Only time will tell.
– Derwin Pereira

Best from all parties ‘What is important is that this Cabinet contains the best children of this nation … from all the parties.’
– Dr Amien Rais, Speaker of Indonesia’s top legislature, the MPR

Sweet dreams ‘This was a very beautiful game. It will make me able to sleep well tonight.’
– MPR Speaker Amien Rais

What they longed for ‘Our nation and people are now in a situation which they had longed for, where ethics and morals will prevail in the life of the nation and state.’
– Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, at her inauguration as Vice-President

Not God’s will? ‘If I was elected, that would be what God wants.’
– Indonesian politician Hamzah Haz, who lost in his bid for the vice-presidency

Love for nation ‘Based on my deep love for the Indonesian state and nation … I herewith declare that I am withdrawing my preparedness to become a candidate.’
– Indonesian military chief General Wiranto

Posted in Indonesia