ad info


Asiaweek TIMEASIA.com CNN.com
 > magazine
 home
 intelligence
 web features
 magazine archive
 technology
 newsmap
 customer service
 subscribe
 TIMEASIA.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL

Other News
TIME.com
TIME Europe
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


AUGUST 4, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 30 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Behind the Power
Vice President Megawati is the deciding factor in the viability of Gus Dur's administration
By DEWI LOVEARD Jakarta

ALSO:
Defiant Under Fire: By remaining unapologetic and unyielding in the run-up to the MPR session, Wahid might be becoming his own worst enemy


Shortly before Gus Dur (as President Abdurrahman Wahid is popularly known) was to face parliament in the interpellation session, he made an unexpected announcement to his cabinet: His partner, Megawati Sukarnoputri, would read his response to the parliamentarians' questions about the sacking of former ministers Laksamana Sukardi and Jusuf Kalla. Those close to the vice president say Megawati was shocked by the decision. Any such grilling in parliament should be answered by the president alone.

Taciturn and low-profile, Megawati normally goes along with the president's controversial decisions. But this time, she whispered to Wahid that she would not do as he had instructed. She added: "I will back you up, so please do not be emotional." Gus Dur ended up facing the parliamentarians himself.

It was the first time Megawati had gone against Wahid's will — and it suggested that she was trying to keep a distance from the president. A close associate of Megawati says she is tired of being ordered around by the president. She also remains angry at the way he sacked her close friend Sukardi without consulting her. The fact that the decision, made last April, happened when she was out of Jakarta did not help.

Wahid cannot afford to alienate Megawati, for she holds the key to his political future. In the People's Consultative Assembly, her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) controls 185 seats, or 27%. Any move by the assembly to unseat Wahid must have the PDI-P's support. Conversely, it is only with the PDI-P's backing that Gus Dur's position is tenable.

But what if Megawati wants to be president herself? According to insiders, she has been organizing a shadow cabinet that would be ready to take over at any moment. Sukardi figures prominently, along with some key members of Suharto-era governments. Her strategy, however, is not about destabilization. PDI-P secretary-general Sutjipto insists that Megawati is not aiming for a hostile takeover. "There is no point in playing such a game," he says.

First, though, Megawati needs to consolidate her fractious party. At least three separate factions currently dominate the PDI-P. The first faction is allied strongly to the former ruling party Golkar. It is widely known that Golkar is gathering power with the military and regional representatives' factions in parliament. At one point, Golkar chairman Akbar Tanjung, together with deputy parliamentary speaker Ginandjar Kartasasmita, contacted Megawati to ask her to mobilize her forces because Gus Dur could no longer be relied on. The choice for Megawati under this scenario is to run with either Tanjung or Ginandjar as her running mate.

The second faction wants to bring Islam to a position of dominance in the country. "The majority of Indonesians are Muslim," says one leading member. "There are signs the international community is trying to reduce the role of Islam in our country. We don't want to make Indonesia an Islamic state like Malaysia or Saudi Arabia, but we don't want Islam to be given an inferior position either."

The last faction is dominated by Christians and is led by Theo Syafei, an ex-general formerly of Golkar. This group is directly opposed to the Muslim faction and is pushing for a bigger role in the party for Christians. Although the clique wields some clout, it does not have the kind of power needed to dictate the party's agenda or influence the top leadership.

Bringing these factions closer together would assist Megawati in any campaign to be president. A close friend says that her ambition is fueled not so much by her party's strong electoral position as by her belief that it is her destiny to live once again in the palace, where she, as the daughter of first president Sukarno, spent much of her childhood. "It's quite normal that she should have such an ambition, since after all she was the winner of the last election [when the PDI-P won the most parliamentary seats]," says the friend.

Yet at the same time, Megawati does not want to betray her partner and friend Gus Dur. PDI-P lawmaker Panda Nababan quotes her as saying: "How can I mount a hostile takeover against Gus Dur? Both of us were the victims of repression during the Suharto era." For now, Wahid's presidency is secure. After the interpellation session, he was able to walk out of parliament with a victory, however tarnished, mainly because Megawati had told her MPs to accept the president's position. It remains to be seen, however, how much longer her patience can be tried. n





Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek.com Home

AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search
  ASIAWEEK'S LATEST
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?


  THIS EDITION

COVER: Anatomy of a Prize
From an environmentalist in China to a mayor in the Philippines, Asiaweek presents the five extraordinary winners of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awards
Public Service: Liang Congjie, China
Community Leadership: Aruna Roy, India
Media and the Arts: Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, Indonesia
International Understanding: Jockin Arputham, India
Government Service: Jesse M. Robredo, Philippines

EDITORIALS
Foreign Policy: Putin's diplomatic forays bode well for Asia

IT: Bringing more information technology to the great unwired

Letters & Comment: Against Vietnam's outspoken monk

THE NATIONS
DIPLOMACY: What came out — and didn't come out — of the G8 summit in Okinawa
Discontent: Resentment boils over in Naha over U.S. bases
ASEAN: The secretary-general talks about the group's bad rap

THAILAND: Samak defeats Thaksin's war chest to clinch Bangkok

CAMBODIA: The dilemma over the Khmer Rouge tribunal

INDONESIA: Wahid vs. parliament in the run-up to the MPR session
Megawati: Tired of following orders?

Newsmakers: Estrada's state of the nation address

Viewpoint: A growing sense of regionalism from Northeast Asia

INSIDE STORY
Arc of Conflict: Caught up in Asia's war zones, how can ordinary people make a difference in the search for peace?
Federalism: It's been tried, but a new model is needed
Maluku: An orphan tells of his fear
Sri Lanka: Love and race defy battle lines
Mindanao: A scholar - peacemaker refuses to wilt
Aceh: Losing hope and waiting to die

BUSINESS
Delayed Takeoff: The decision to put off the privatization of Thai Airways reflects poorly on the nation's economy
India: New Delhi is finally looking to privatize the skies

Investing: The rally in China stocks may be real

Business Buzz: Getting Ready for WTO Takeoff

TECHNOLOGY
Phones: Why China's local handset makers get no respect

Biochips: Computer scientists borrow from mother nature

Cutting Edge: Apple's New Crop

NEWSMAP
This week's news round-up by country

STATISTICS
The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies


Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.