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Jakarta Post

Kingmaker Megawati

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, August 15, 2019   /   09:11 am
Kingmaker Megawati Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri (center) poses for a photo alongside President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (left) and Vice President Jusuf Kalla during her 72nd birthday celebration. (The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan)

Like it or not, the fact that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) unanimously entrusted Megawati Soekarnoputri to remain at the helm of the ruling party for another five years last weekend shows she is firmly among the powers-that-be in this country. She does not have to be president, which she was from 2001 to 2004, to change the course of the country, as evident from the 2014 and 2019 elections. Her influence is likely to remain in 2024.

She was the kingmaker who catapulted then-little known Surakarta mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to Jakarta’s governorship in 2012 and presidency two years later. Jokowi would have not won his second term last April without Megawati’s blessing. She also reportedly played a crucial part in the nomination of Ma’ruf Amin as Jokowi’s running mate.

Unlike Jokowi, who will become a lame duck president near the end of his term in 2024, Megawati will continue to exercise power, particularly in choosing Jokowi’s successor. As a seasoned politician, Megawati must have envisioned a post-Jokowi Indonesia, which is why, perhaps, she hosted the much-publicized meeting with Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto last month.

As leader of the party that won the most votes in the legislative elections, Megawati is someone who Jokowi has to consult with and listen to when shaping and reshuffling his Cabinet. It is only natural for Megawati, like other coalition leaders, to propose certain people as ministerial candidates. The latest news about Jokowi’s decision to delay his plan to reshuffle the Cabinet yet again only indicates that Jokowi and the coalition leaders, including Megawati, have yet to reach an agreement over who gets what position in the Cabinet.

The Constitution says the President has the prerogative to appoint ministers, but the country’s contemporary politics requires that Jokowi negotiate with the political elite for the sake of government stability.

As the struggle for democracy persists in the country, Megawati has taught Indonesian politicians that perseverance will pay off. She was a loyal opposition leader under the New Order and after her defeat in the 2004 and 2009 presidential races. Circulation of the elite seems to be an inevitability in this country and, as Megawati has proven, voters are willing to pay back her loyalty.

The nation will demand more from Megawati, who has directly or indirectly defined today’s Indonesia. We, for example, have not heard much about what she has done as the chair of the Agency for the Implementation of State Ideology Pancasila steering committee for the past year, amid challenges in reinterpreting the founding values of the nation in this changing world. What we have seen instead are rampant acts of intolerance.

The public also deserves to hear her explanation related to the PDI-P’s intention to amend the Constitution so as to restore the People’s Consultative Assembly’s power to draft state policy guidelines, as the implications will be overarching.

Megawati clearly wields power that can be likened to the megathrust earthquakes that the country is prone to. But as popular wisdom says: With great power comes great responsibility.