Key leaders back Megawati to take over
Muslim politicians who had opposed her because of her gender give her formal backing after Friday meeting.
Calls are growing for Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri to take over power as key political leaders opposed to Indonesian leader Abdurrahman Wahid threw their support behind her.
In a significant breakthrough and a bitter irony of sorts, she received the formal backing of Muslim politicians who two years ago blocked her rise to the top because of her gender.
“Muslim people would never have a problem with a female leader, particularly if she were Muslim too,” said Justice Party legislator Hidayat Nurwahid. “Since Mega is a true Muslim, we do not see any problem in supporting her to replace Gus Dur.”
Mr Hidayat, one of those who attacked MsMegawati in the October 1999 presidential election for lacking the Muslim credentials to be leader, made the comments after a closed-door meeting at the Al-Azhar mosque on Friday.
Also present during the 90-minute “brainstorming session” were leading figures from other Muslim-based parties like the United Development Party and the Crescent Star Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN), and two of the largest factions in Parliament – the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and Golkar.
Legislators who attended the meeting said that they reached a consensus that the incumbent had to make way for Ms Megawati because he was an “ineffective leader bringing the country further down the road of anarchy”.
Mr Abdurrahman, currently in Saudi Arabia on the last leg of a tour of Africa and the Middle East, told Antara news agency yesterday that he was unconcerned with the latest move.
But the gathering drew fire from Mr Abdurrahman’s Nation Awakening Party (PKB), which charged that politicians like Mr Amien were not to be trusted.
In a pointed reminder to Ms Megawati, it said yesterday the PKB was the sole party that fought for the right of a woman to be president in the face of “bulldozer opposition” from Muslim parties.
Sources close to the Vice-President said that while she was “psychologically predisposed” to taking over the reins of power, she was also wary of trusting politicians who at one time were her strongest critics.
A senior Cabinet Minister explained: “Amien Rais is suffering from the illusion that Ibu Mega will do his bidding. He and other power-hungry politicians should think again.”
For Ms Megawati, the most “favourable outcome” was for the President to resign on his own accord, he said. If this did not happen, then it meant sticking to the stipulated four-month time frame following a censure motion against
Mr Abdurrahman several weeks ago for his involvement in two financial scandals. This could lead to impeachment proceedings in June.
The Cabinet source said: “Ibu Mega’s star is shining. But she is afraid of karma. She is afraid that if she joins others in forcing Gus Dur out of office, Amien and his friends will one day do the same thing to her.”