The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is obviously on an upward trend, particularly in relation to the popularity of its rising star, incumbent Jakarta Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo. Largely associated with its chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, the party is tipped as the strongest candidate in this year's elections. The Jakarta Post's Hasyim Widhiarto and the 2014 election reporting team offers an analysis of the party's rising profile, presented in two separate items of this special report.
After leading a three-hour meeting with dozens of key party members, Megawati immediately left the party's headquarters in South Jakarta, leaving only deputy secretary-general Hasto Kristianto to deal with a score of reporters who were curious about the meeting's results.
The Jan. 10 meeting, which was preceded by a reception to commemorate the PDI-P's 41st anniversary, was deemed crucial as it sent a signal to the public that the party was preparing to officially endorse its candidate for the presidential election in July.
Hasto, however, had his interview interrupted after an elderly woman in PDI-P attire suddenly walked out of the headquarters building just behind him and began yelling. 'Long live Megawati, say no to Jokowi', the woman, a long-time party supporter, repeatedly shouted.
The incident seems to depict the ongoing political maneuverings within the party ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
The woman's behavior, perhaps representing the stance of Sukarnoists (party loyalists who have an emotional attachment to Indonesia's founding president and Megawati's father, Sukarno), cannot be viewed, however, as a reflection of widespread feeling within the PDI-P, which has consistently been ranked within the top two in a number of recent surveys held to determine political party electability ratings among the general public.
Symbolic gestures of preference and expressions of subservience during the anniversary's reception are probably more representative of the mood within the party. After handing the first two slices of the anniversary tumpeng (cone-shaped rice dish) to PDI-P secretary-general Tjahjo Kumolo and her daughter and lawmaker Puan Maharani, Megawati offered the third slice to Jokowi.
Upon receiving the rice, Jokowi surprisingly put Megawati's right hand on his forehead, a symbol of respect in Javanese culture, to the applause of hundreds of party members attending the reception.
Jokowi has been ranked in many surveys as the most popular candidate for the presidential election. Still, PDI-P elites have so far remained silent about its official presidential nominee, sparking speculation that Megawati is considering running again for a third time, despite her two consecutive defeats in the 2004 and 2009 presidential elections.
Hasto maintained that the PDI-P was currently focusing on fulfilling its target of garnering 27.01 percent of the popular vote in the April 9 legislative election, and would announce its presidential candidate soon after that. 'We need to ensure that we have full political sovereignty in endorsing our [presidential] candidate,' he said.
The Presidential Election Law requires all political parties to obtain a minimum 25 percent of the vote or 20 percent of seats in the House of Representatives to be entitled to nominate a presidential candidate.
Although several recent surveys have put the PDI-P as the frontrunner in the upcoming legislative election, none of them predict that the party could garner more than 25 percent of the vote.
A source within the party's campaign team (Bapilu) said Megawati's reluctance to immediately announce the PDI-P's presidential candidate was a result of her bitter experience in the 2009 presidential election.
'The last time the PDI-P announced its presidential candidate was in 2005, four years before the 2009 presidential election. It turned out that this strategy gave too much space to our political opponents to repeatedly attack Ibu Megawati on her capacity as the PDI-P's presidential candidate,' the source told The Jakarta Post.
With only a few months to go until the presidential election, the PDI-P's wait-and-see strategy has bfailed to satisfy many of the party's supporters, particularly those who like the idea of Jokowi becoming the party's presidential candidate. These supporters, for example, have independently launched a number of pro-Jokowi groups during the past couple of months, in the hope of putting pressure on the party's central board to announce Jokowi's nomination.
The PDI-P's lawmaker, Maruarar Sirait, on the other hand, gave a clue as to where the party stands regarding the issue of its presidential candidate. 'Our choice for a presidential nominee has crystallized into two names ' Ibu Megawati and Pak Jokowi. No one else,' Maruarar said in a recent interview.
Megawati's dominance of the PDI-P leadership cannot be separated from her major role in helping the formerly ailing party, previously the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), become one of the country's largest political forces.
Established in 1973 as a result of a merger of three nationalist parties ' the Indonesian National Party (PNI), the Murba Party and the Independence Vanguard Party (IPKI) ' together with the Catholic Party and a Christian party (Parkindo), the PDI only garnered 8.6 percent of the vote in the 1977 general election, far behind the Golkar Party and the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), which secured 62.1 percent and 29.3 percent, respectively.
With approval from the government, the PDI tried to utilize the appeal of former president and PNI co-founder Sukarno to help boost its popularity in the 1982 general election. This strategy did not help, however, and the party saw its support drop even further to 7.9 percent.
To regain support from former PNI and Sukarno loyalists, newly elected PDI chairman Soerjadi recruited Megawati and her husband, Taufiq Kiemas, in 1986 to become PDI lawmaker candidates in the 1987 general election.
Megawati's brief presence at numerous mass gatherings, along with the party's open support of Sukarno's Marhaenism ' a socialist ideology that aims to advance the poorest in society ' successfully boosted the party's popularity in the 1987 election. Although it only finished third behind Golkar and the PPP, the PDI managed to increase its support to 10.9 percent in the election.
Employing a similar strategy, the PDI successfully garnered 14.9 percent of the vote in the 1992 general election. The following year, Megawati was unanimously elected the party's chairwoman, despite strong reluctance from the authorities.
In spite of the authorities' relentless attacks on her leadership, Megawati's popularity in Indonesian politics soared. Thereafter, she became a symbol of the struggle against Soeharto's authoritarian regime.
Even after she was removed from the party leadership ahead of the 1997 general election, Megawati was still able to woo her loyalists and finally declared the birth of the PDI-P ahead of the 1999 general election.
Although she lost the 1999 presidential election to Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, Megawati finally secured the country's top post in 2001 after the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) unanimously withdrew Gus Dur's mandate.
Looking at Megawati's contribution to the party, PDI-P lawmaker Budiman Sudjatmiko said it would be hard to find anyone to replace her as the party's central figure.
'Ibu Mega is a politician who wants to see her party's ideology implemented in political practice. This kind of person is very rare in Indonesian politics nowadays,' he said.
Budiman hinted, however, that despite being a potential presidential candidate herself, Megawati was also serious about 'grooming' Jokowi to become a presidential candidate in possession of the kind of state leadership skill and capacity to deal with both domestic and international issues as exhibited by Sukarno.
'On a number of occasions ' particularly on weekends ' Ibu Mega has tutored Pak Jokowi on Indonesianess and Indonesianhood, as well as on international affairs,' Budiman, a PDI-P Bapilu member in the 2009 general election, said.
Jokowi, whose leadership and management style has caused a sensation among national media outlets, won the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2012 and left his job as the mayor of the Central Java city of Surakarta three years before the end of his second term.
Jokowi's so-called blusukan, impromptu visits to meet people directly and listen to their complaints and opinions, have become his headline-making trademark.
Megawati, who has repeatedly been reluctant to comment on the various surveys, recently made a rare public comment about Jokowi's popularity and the possibility of him becoming the country's president.
'I know Pak Jokowi has been unbeatable in many surveys, but I have told him to not be too proud about that,' she said on the political talk show, Mata Najwa, broadcast recently by news channel MetroTV.
Jokowi has refused to comment about his chances of securing the PDI-P's nomination for the upcoming presidential election. When asked for his views about Megawati on Mata Najwa, Jokowi answered after a long pause, 'she is a person of principle. The longer you know Ibu Mega, the more you know that she works with great attention to detail.'
Sita W. Dewi, Hans David Tampubolon and Imanuddin Razak contributed to this article.
Your premium period will expire in 0 day(s)close x
Renew your subscription to get unlimited access