Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Nur Yasmin, Jakarta – Megawati Sukarnoputri has shown just why she is considered one of the most powerful politicians in Indonesia today.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman opened the party's fifth congress in Bali on Thursday, playing host to thousands of members from around the country and the who's who of politics.
The congress will discuss the party's strategy for the next five years and elect new leaders. But the former president was relaxed, with the congress later in the day reconfirming her as chairwoman.
Her control over the party, which won 19 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives in the April 17 legislative election, remains intact. The congress also did not pass a suggestion to create a new position for a deputy chairperson or party manager.
"I remain the chairwoman, mandated with the prerogative to choose the party's central board members," Megawati said after the vote.
Earlier in the day, she deviated from a prepared speech, opting to improvise her opening remarks. She bantered with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his rival, Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairman Prabowo Subianto, who was among the top politicians present at the congress.
"If Jokowi is president, there should be many [PDI-P ministers], because we have won twice," Megawati said in her speech.
She addressed recent speculation on whether Jokowi would accommodate both members of supporting and rival parties in ministerial posts to establish a supermajority coalition, which the president considers crucial to expedite his reform agenda.
"Don't say, 'because the PDI-P has won a lot; already won the House of Representatives; so I will only give four [seats].' Well no, I don't want that. Even those who didn't [win] asked [for seats]," Megawati said jokingly. This was met with cheers from congress participants.
"Mr. President, I respectfully request for the PDI-P to get into the cabinet with most ministerial seats," Megawati said, flashing both her thumbs.
Jokowi later responded by saying he would ensure that the PDI-P gets most of the seats in his cabinet.
"If other parties get two seats, then the PDI-P gets four. If other parties get three, that doesn't mean the PDI-P [gets six]. But I guarantee that the PDI-P will get most of the seats; that is certain," Jokowi said in his remarks.
Megawati also greeted Prabowo, whom she personally invited to the congress during a meeting at her home last month.
"Mr. Prabowo, thank you for coming to warm the atmosphere of our congress," Megawati said amid applause. "It will be tiring if the fighting continues now. Let's fight again in 2024," she said, drawing laughter from participants.
The chairwoman also singled out Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in her speech. It was the first time she showed such a gesture in public since the former Jakarta governor's release from prison earlier this year. Ahok, who is a PDI-P member, stood up and bowed to the rest of the audience when Megawati mentioned his name.
It is widely speculated that he may be appointed as a minister, or run in another regional election, despite earlier having said that his political career was over.
The PDI-P congress, which is taking place at a hotel in Sanur, Bali, will conclude on Saturday.
PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto said the party would mainly discuss the makeup of Jokowi's next cabinet, but that it would avoid suggesting specific names. He added that the party would leave that to Megawati and Jokowi.
"Through dialogue, so what is conveyed fits in with Mr. Jokowi's strategic agenda," he said.
Also present at the congress are Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Vice President-elect Ma'ruf Amin and the leaders of coalition partners, including Airlangga Hartarto of Golkar Party and Surya Paloh of the National Democratic Party (NasDem).