… while Mega faces threat from parties


A dagger is pointing at the heart of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Five Muslim-based parties are ganging up to block her bid for the presidency next year.

They have agreed to support the candidate of any of these parties moving into round two of the presidential election.

Will the alliance succeed? Unlikely. The most it could do is some hard bargaining to extract concessions in return for support.

National Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais, who is leading the charge, might be drawing on the success of the Muslim camp in the 1999 election in undermining Ms Megawati’s chances.

Back then, he set up the Central Axis, a coalition that comprised the United Development Party, the Nation Awakening Party, the Crescent Star Party, the Justice Party and the National Mandate Party.

That alliance undermined Ms Megawati’s chances then. But that possibility looks remote now.

The presidential election will no longer be carried out in an MPR prone to backroom dealings and manipulation.

Under the terms of the newly amended Constitution, the voters will choose among ‘ready-made’ presidential tickets put forward by parties.

The key to victory is strong grassroots support.

Ms Megawati’s popularity is waning but she continues to hold symbolic appeal in the heartlands of Indonesia as the daughter of the country’s founding father Sukarno.

In 1999, the ruling PDI-P and rival Golkar together won 56.1 per cent of the votes.

The five Muslim parties polled just 33 per cent.

The Muslim parties might capture more votes in 2004, but observers believe it will not go beyond 40 per cent.

For one, they have limited appeal to mainstream secular voters – more so now against a backdrop of terrorist attacks by radical groups.

Muslim leaders in Indonesia are also torn apart by historical and ideological differences.

There are basically two camps: the Nadhlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah.

They have not shown the ability to work together because of a clash of egos.

But given their ability to muster 10 to 15 million votes, they will use it to extract concessions from Ms Megawati.

The dagger might not be very sharp.

But it is still pointed enough to make sure that the interests of the Islamic camp remain on the cards of any future government.

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