The Jakarta Post
Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), has sent a signal that she might support the presidential candidacy of popular Jakarta Governor and PDI-P politician Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
Party members who attended the PDI-P's 41st anniversary reception in South Jakarta were in for a surprise when Megawati handed the first slice of tumpeng (cone-shaped rice dish) to Jokowi and subsequently shook his hand.
Upon receiving the rice, Jokowi put Megawati's right hand to his forehead, a symbol of deference in Javanese culture.
Many at the celebration began to speculate whether the gesture, meant to show respect for a person with higher status or power, may mean that Jokowi had finally secured Megawati's blessing to become the party's presidential candidate.
Jokowi, once again, denied that the gesture was an indication of support from Megawati.
'What blessing? It's just a normal anniversary [for the party],' he said.
Public opinion polls have shown that Jokowi holds a comfortable lead against other presidential hopefuls.
According to a survey released by Kompas daily earlier this week, Jokowi was the most electable candidate with 43.5 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him if an election were to take place today.
Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party chief patron Prabowo Subianto came in a distant second with 11.1 percent. Golkar Party chairman and presidential candidate Aburizal Bakrie came in third with 9.2 percent.
Megawati, meanwhile, was ranked in fifth place with only 6.1 percent. She came behind People's Conscience (Hanura) Party chairman Wiranto, who came in fourth with 6.3 percent.
Despite his soaring popularity during the past several months, Jokowi, however, has yet to secure an official endorsement from the PDI-P for his presidential bid, allegedly due to resistance from a party faction that still wants Megawati to run again for a third time.
Last week, Jokowi created a stir after saying nggih ('yes' in Javanese) in response to a group of residents who asked him about his willingness to run as a presidential candidate.
Earlier this week, Jokowi visited Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization; a move seen by analysts as an early attempt to woo Muslim voters.
Many are also convinced that Megawati's frequent trips with Jokowi is part of a move to groom Jokowi to become the party's presidential hopeful.
Meanwhile, senior PDI-P politician Panda Nababan said he was sure Megawati would not run again in the 2014 presidential election, considering her age and that her two most recent presidential bids had failed. Megawati will turn 67 this year.
'She is firm that she won't run again for president,' Panda said.
Megawati, however, has repeatedly said that her party would only announce its presidential candidate after the April 9 legislative election.
'The PDI-P has its own strategy [for the presidential election]. It is not a rash decision for us to endorse a presidential candidate, as he or she would be leading a large country with abundant resources,' she said.
Political analyst Hanta Yudha of the Pol-Tracking Institute said he believed that Jokowi's gesture symbolized nothing more than his deep respect for Megawati.
'Such a gesture is common in our political circles. The former chairman of the Democratic Party, Anas Urbaningrum, for example, did the same thing to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [the party's chief patron] on several occasions,' he said.
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