Megawati’s party doubts Indonesia power shift plan


JAKARTA The party of Indonesian Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri on Friday expressed doubt over a proposal to give her substantial powers as a way out of the country’s worsening political crisis.

Other smaller parties flatly rejected the idea of taking government duties away from President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is fighting for his political life, saying it would not work and would also require constitutional changes.

Influential parliamentary speaker Akbar Tandjung made the proposal in widely published remarks on Friday. Tandjung, who also heads the Golkar party, said Wahid would need to agree to transfer authority over administrative affairs to Megawati.

Sutjipto, a secretary general in Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), was cool to the idea.

“PDI-P still doubts this idea… It’s vague,” Sutjipto told reporters. He did not elaborate.

But political analysts say there is growing concern in PDI-P that if Megawati took too much responsibility for the troubled country now she could end up being blamed for government failings that could destroy her political future.

Wahid transferred some government powers to Megawati last August after MPs slammed his erratic rule, but analysts say he still kept firm control over the running of the country, which would make PDI-P officials suspicious of a similar move.

PDI-P has the largest block of parliament seats but not enough to form a government alone. Golkar, the country’s former ruling party, is the second biggest.

Wahid has come under mounting fire since rejecting a censure on Wednesday over two financial scandals and he faces possible impeachment within months. He would remain head of state under the power transfer proposal, although Tandjung did not explicitly say Megawati would head the government.

The daughter of Indonesia’s founding father, Sukarno, Megawati is adored by the masses and increasingly regarded by MPs as a preferable alternative to Wahid’s faltering 17-month rule as the country’s first democratically elected leader.

Although believed to want the presidency, aides say Megawati will not dirty her hands by joining public efforts to oust her old friend, who slipped past her to grab the top job in 1999.

The small National Mandate Party (PAN) dismissed the idea. PAN is led by Amien Rais, a stern Wahid critic and head of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), the top legislature.

“We reject the proposal because power sharing is very hard to implement,” Hatta Rajasa, a PAN leader, told reporters.

The official Antara news agency quoted Tandjung as saying the MPR would be required to approve a move to transfer more power to Megawati to make it conform with the constitution.

The MPR is due to hold its annual gathering in August.

Top politicians have warned Wahid that discontent with his rule was so intense he had few chances of surviving much longer.

Indeed, the Feb. 1 censure is the biggest threat to his rocky rule, which has failed to pull Indonesia out of a prolonged and often violent crisis which has left the economy in tatters.

Parliament formally replies to Wahid on April 30 following his response to the censure, and is likely to issue a second rebuke, bringing impeachment one step closer.