Megawati unveils coalition to secure a polls win

Aim of four-party alliance, which includes influential Golkar, is to marginalise rival Bambang ahead of Sept 20 run-off polls.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday unveiled a grand alliance to support her bid for another term in office, raising the stakes in her battle with a former general in next month’s election.

The 57-year-old declared ‘victory was now in our hands’ as she announced the four-party ‘Nationhood Coalition’ that included political juggernauts Golkar and her own Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P).

The Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) and the minor Peace and Prosperous Party were the other members of the alliance.

At the launching ceremony, she said: ‘I asked God to show Indonesia what kind of leadership can advance this nation with a strong and sturdy foundation. My prayers have been answered. Today, we choose to align.’

For his part, Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung said the alliance was ‘no paper tiger’ as he brushed off the threat of Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is leading public opinion polls to become Indonesia’s sixth president.

The grassroots and organisational strengths of the four parties could ‘mobilise support’ for Ms Megawati across the sprawling archipelago, according to Mr Akbar.

‘We have 30 days to work the ground,’ he told The Straits Times. ‘The combined machinery and network of the parties will give Ibu Mega a big advantage in the election. Bambang does not have a chance if we pool all our resources together.’

He said the alliance could ‘secure at least 60 million votes’. The four parties also hold 307 seats in Parliament or more than 50 per cent of the total number of seats.

Mr Bambang’s team, while growing concerned in recent weeks at attempts to marginalise the former security czar with deals between the palace and political elite, yesterday put up a brave front.

Senior adviser Rachmat Witoelar said the coalition to support Ms Megawati could backfire and serve Mr Bambang’s interests even more.

‘As far as I am concerned, this is great news because it works to our advantage,’ he said. ‘It is easier for us to put a tag on things. These parties represent the status quo, and we represent change.’

Mr Bambang has been careful to avoid forming coalitions with any political party, preferring not to make deals until after the Sept 20 poll.

Ms Megawati could not resist taking a swipe at her opponent yesterday for his approach. She said: ‘Isn’t it hot to hear that someone could say that political parties are not needed because what is required is only the support from the people?’

The palace has adopted a different tact, putting a premium on deal-making to secure backing in the run-up to the polls. Well-placed sources said the palace had offered up to 10 Cabinet positions and US$20 million (S$34.4 million) to Golkar alone.

The move to get the other parties aboard was motivated by Ms Megawati’s influential husband, Mr Taufik Kiemas, who after keeping a low profile for months has emerged as a key deal-maker.

Together with Mr Akbar, he cobbled together the coalition that remains open to other parties joining it.

A PDI-P source said the broad strategy was to get as many parties to work together so as to marginalise Mr Bambang in public.

‘Symbolically, it is very powerful for these parties to form an alliance. It leaves Bambang all alone with questions being asked why none of the major forces in Indonesia are teaming up with him.’

Posted in Indonesia