Gus Dur doubts Megawati can do a better job

The President questions her ability to run Indonesia and her supporters say his comments will fuel further fire.

President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday cast doubt on Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s ability to run Indonesia as he fought to hold on to power.

With impeachment proceedings looming in the background, his public criticism of his deputy – saying he doubted if she could do the job any better – signalled a deepening rift with Ms Megawati which could backfire on him, analysts said.

“The President questioned whether Ms Megawati controlling the government will actually make the government better,” Mr Siswono Yudohusodo, a People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) legislator, told reporters after meeting Mr Abdurrahman.

There was no comment from Ms Megawati to what was a clear sign that the President was in no mood to give up his position to her.

But members of her Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (PDI-P) hit out at Mr Abdurrahman for “making comments that will fuel further fire”.

Mr Heri Achmadi, the PDI-P secretary told The Straits Times: “There are little grounds for him to have made such remarks. What is his proof that she is not good enough?

“Like previous remarks he has made on other Cabinet members, his comments on Megawati will do little to improve the general political climate … His relationship with Megawati will only get worse.”

This is not the first time he has criticised her.

On several occasions – in private meetings with aides, Muslim scholars and businessmen – he has reportedly questioned her ability to lead the country out of its current crisis.

He has also commented on her personal life, alleging close links to an adjutant.

This has not gone down well with Ms Megawati, her influential husband Taufik Kiemas – who at one time supported Mr Abdurrahman – and with PDI-P members in general.

Sources said that the relationship continued to fray after several recent meetings Ms Megawati had with Mr Abdurrahman. She has also reportedly refused to strike a political deal to let him stay on until 2004. His opponents have not made things easier for him: they have made Ms Megawati their leading candidate to replace him.

Ms Megawati might be cautious about going for the political jugular, preferring that he resigned voluntarily. But observers noted that as ties soured, it would be easier for her to dump him.

Said an influential Golkar legislator: “Mega wants things to proceed in a constitutional manner. But with the President trying to undermine her credibility repeatedly, she will sooner or later support legislators to oust him.

“Gus Dur has shot himself in the foot.”

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