Akbar rules out alliance with Megawati’s party

Boosted by parliamentary results so far, a confident Golkar chief says party will field its own presidential candidate.

GOLKAR chairman Akbar Tandjung, confident that his party will win the legislative election, has ruled out a coalition with President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s party.

Brushing aside suggestions that a deal had been struck between the two largest parties to enter the July presidential race on a joint ticket, he said that Golkar would go for broke if it topped the polls.

‘We will put up our own presidential candidate,’ he told The Straits Times yesterday. ‘It is hard for my party to accept being No. 2 to Megawati if we beat the PDI-P.’

Observers believe his refusal to be nudged into an alliance with the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) stems from growing confidence since he was exonerated of corruption charges by the Supreme Court two months ago.

It has allowed him to consolidate his grip on Golkar and may well see him emerge as the party’s top contender for the presidency.

Secondly, well-placed sources disclosed that the resignation last month of security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono amid a political row with the President has presented an even more attractive coalition partner for Golkar.

An alliance with the Nation Awakening Party, backed by the 40-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama, is considered by some Golkar members to be an ‘unbeatable alliance’.

Underlying Golkar’s latest strategy is Mr Akbar’s personal ambition – and the fact that he sees it as his destiny to be No. 1. He is riding on Golkar’s newfound popularity. After years in the doldrums, the party has rediscovered its nerve, as demonstrated by preliminary results of the general election.

Mr Akbar believes that his party will get more than a quarter of the national votes. In 1999, it captured 22.4 per cent, while the PDI-P came out on top with 33.7 per cent.

Golkar is now neck-and-neck with the PDI-P for top spot, as counting continued for the country’s parliamentary election. With 21.7 million votes counted, the PDI-P had 20.8 per cent with Golkar behind by less than 1 per cent.

But Golkar is expected to post strong results in the days ahead, with results trickling in from areas in which it is traditionally dominant, such as eastern Indonesia and outlying areas outside Java.

Most opinion polls ahead of Monday’s vote showed that Golkar was likely to unseat Ms Megawati’s party as the largest in parliament, although without a majority, as many yearn for the firm leadership and economic growth of the New Order regime.

The surveys have also shown the PDI-P in bad light.

The most recent, by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and four Indonesian non-governmental organisations, showed a sharp drop in support for the PDI-P. A quick count from 1,461 polling stations across Indonesia found that Golkar took 22.7 per cent of the vote.

Yesterday, the same group released an exit poll that revealed that the PDI-P retained only a third of its supporters in the last election.

Most of those who had defected had switched to Golkar, the Prosperous Justice Party and the Democratic Party – two small parties performing better than expected.

Giving his take on the PDI-P’s losses, Mr Rustam Ibrahim, one of the researchers involved in the survey, said: ‘One reason is that people are dissatisfied with Ibu Mega’s government. They want to see political change.

‘They also want to open up an avenue for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to become president.’

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