29 February 2004

Mega wants running mate for knockout win

President Megawati Sukarnoputri, leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P), has hinted that she might get Golkar leader Akbar Tandjung to be her running mate in the upcoming presidential election.

Ms Megawati's aide Pramono Anung Wibowo said she was eyeing a quick finish to the election and, therefore, would need a running mate who could ensure a landslide win and no run-off election.

'Ibu is still contemplating her possible running mate, but she said she would like to secure the presidency in the first round of election,' Mr Pramono said on Thursday.

He added that Ms Megawati would take on a running mate only if the person could satisfy the wishes of her constituents.

The landmark direct presidential election will take place on July 5.

Only parties that get 3 per cent of the total number of votes in the April 5 legislative election are eligible to nominate candidates.

Unless one candidate wins more than 50 per cent in the July 5 ballot, a run-off vote would be held on Sept 20.

Just days after the Supreme Court overturned his corruption conviction, Mr Akbar, himself a presidential contender, floated the possibility of becoming Ms Megawati's running mate, much to the chagrin of his Golkar colleagues.

Yep, that other presidential election. The Indonesians have just abolished their electoral college, leaving the US the only nation with an indirectly-elected president. Previous presidents were elected by the Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR. Adulrahman Wajid was dismissed by the MPR and Megawati, his vice-president, succeeded him.

There are few certainties. Megawati will be the PDI-P candidate, as the party is essentially a personal vehicle. The next largest party, Golkar was a personal vehicle that mobilised state patronage to ensure Suharto was elected an re-elected on schedule. A number of Golkar politicians including Akbar Tanjung, the speaker and Wiranto (wanted by the Un on crimes against humanity charges in East Timor) want to run, but Golkar has not yet decided its candidate.

PDi-P and Golkar have about 25% of the electorate each, so a joint ticket would go into the election with a huge advantage. Ex-president Wahid is running as well, but has little chance.

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