The cult of personality surrounding Megawati Soekarnoputri and making her the most powerful figure in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is gradually fading with the rise of populist Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
For decades, PDI-P members saw Megawati as the political heir of the country’s first president, Sukarno, her father. The party has even bestowed on her almost absolute authority, including the nominating of a presidential candidate.
Her political clout, however, has begun to fade, with the party seemingly wanting her to hang up her cleats and let the younger generation lead — thanks mainly to the rising popularity of Jokowi, pegged as the front-runner in the 2014 presidential election.
On Saturday, when the party was holding its national meeting in Ancol, North Jakarta, as many as four banners with a picture of Jokowi’s face and writing saying, “Jokowi Yes, Megawati No,” were found hanging on major streets in East Jakarta, including on Jl. Matraman and Jl. Pramuka, as well as in Kampung Melayu. It remained unknown who had hung the banners.
PDI-P executive Puan Maharani told journalists that there had been no instruction from the party to hang up the banners.
“There was no instruction because the party has not discussed the issue [of presidential nomination],” she said. The party’s central executive board, she added, had ordered an investigation into the incident. “We are seeking to find out if the perpetrator is from inside or outside the party,” she said.
Party executive and meeting steering committee member Andreas Hugo Pareira said the banners “definitely did not come from the party’s members”.
“Just look at the ambience today,” he added.
He said it could be a negative campaign launched by other political parties, stressing that vetting Jokowi and Megawati “was not taboo [for them], but the PDI-P would not buy it.”
Jokowi, meanwhile, continued to gain endorsements for a possible presidential run. During Saturday’s closed-door meeting aimed at hearing the aspirations of local party chapters, five out of eight party chapter teams from across the country expressed support for Jokowi’s bid. Two teams said they were open to the nomination of Jokowi, Megawati or Puan.
Only one team, comprised of party chapters from Bali, East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara, said they left the decision completely in Megawati’s hands.
As for local support for Jokowi’s bid, Andreas said all local aspirations had been brought to the floor and would be weighed and considered.
In terms of timing, Andreas said, making a last-minute decision on a candidate would not be beneficial as the party needed to promote the candidate to the public. He went on to say that the majority of the party members were now aiming to win the legislative election first before deciding who would be the presidential candidate.
Megawati has been ruling the party since 1993, back when it was still named the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). Under her leadership, the party was able to win the large number of seats in the House of Representatives in 1999, with 151 seats.
She, however, failed to win the presidency after she was beaten by former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid through a voting mechanism at the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), relegating her to become vice president.
Megawati, then, took over the country’s top post when the MPR revoked Gus Dur’s appointment as president in 2001. After three years ruling the country, Megawati attempted to run for a second term only to lose to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Since then, Megawati has appeared to bear a grudge against the President, going so far as banning all PDI-P members from becoming ministers in Yudhoyono’s administration.
Her tough stance reportedly created a rift in 2009 between her and her husband, Taufiq Kiemas, former MPR speaker and a senior PDI-P politician, who passed away earlier this year. While Megawati was adamant the PDI-P should stay to its core an opposition party, Taufiq said that it was okay for party members to work with Yudhoyono since it was for the good of the country.
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