Mega set to make re-election pitch

The President will meet the national assembly today; bid to cast slurs on her performance is unlikely to unseat her.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri will stand before Indonesia’s highest legislative body today to defend her track record over the last 12 months as she seeks to pave the way for her re-election next year.

Against a backdrop of financial scandals and accusations of ‘underperformance’, opponents in the national assembly (MPR) are likely to cast aspersions on her administration.

But observers said it was unlikely this would lead to a putsch against her, given that the MPR now has barely any power to topple the President, unlike during the last two governments.

Reflecting the priorities legislators attached to this session, Speaker Amien Rais said it was unlikely to draw much attention, in view of the mundane issues it would discuss. ‘The whole session could be completed in no more than five days,’ he said.

Initially, the plan – as in previous years – was to have it for a full 10 days. But legislators appeared to decide against this, given the lighter workload and seeming absence of any political impetus to challenge Ms Megawati.

Three agendas will dominate the session:

The progress reports of the President, Parliament, the Supreme Audit Agency and the Supreme Court;

A review of more than 100 obsolete decrees enacted between 1966 and last year; and

The establishment of a constitutional commission.

While there could be some criticism of the 57-year-old Indonesian leader, there does not appear to be any concerted attempt to challenge her.

A senior Golkar legislator told The Straits Times: ‘The MPR does not have any more power to bring down a president. The fight with her will be at the elections. So we will have to wait until then.’

Significantly, the opposition is too fractured to align its forces against her.

During the administrations of former presidents B.J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid, coalitions were easily formed because of the mutual interest by elements in the political elite in toppling them.

An issue likely to surface is the Sukhoigate scandal. At its heart is Jakarta’s purchase of four Sukhoi jets, two SU-20 and two SU-27 bombers and two MI-35 helicopters during the President’s trip to Russia last month.

Critics say the US$192.6 million (S$338.5 million) deal violated defence and budgetary laws and banking procedures.

For a while, Ms Megawati’s rivals were grabbing whatever ammunition they could get to damage her credibility ahead of nextyear’s polls. But surprisingly, a commission meeting on the issue last week was postponed – and it is unlikely to dominate the MPR session.

A seasoned diplomat noted: ‘Her opponents recognise that they will not be in a position to do the President much harm. The most they have done so far is to taint her credibility. But that is as far as they can go.’

For Ms Megawati, however, the meeting will give her a chance to take on her critics by highlighting her key successes over the last year, which some have described as a ‘mixed performance’.

Said the diplomatic source: ‘For Mega, this session is being seen as a precursor to elections next year.’

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