APSN Banner

Outsider enters race against Suharto

South China Morning Post - September 5, 1997

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – A little-known politician has nominated herself as a presidential candidate to run against President Suharto in elections next March.

Berar Fathia, 43, a former member of the Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI), yesterday said she had enough support to run as a candidate.

"I have support to be president and I want to test the national constitution. I will compete with Mr Suharto at the MPR session," she said.

The 1,000-member Peoples' Consultative Assembly (MPR) meets in March to elect a new president and deputy and formulate state policy for the next five-year period.

Mrs Fathia has named controversial author Wimanjaya Liotohe her running mate for vice-president.

Mr Liotohe's banned works, including First Sin, accuse Mr Suharto of controlling an authoritarian state and the Indonesian military of torturing civilians.

"This is serious, very serious... I am doing this with statesmanship," said Mrs Fathia, who is lobbying political parties, institutions and MPs to support her candidacy.

She also nominated herself as a presidential candidate in 1992 but dropped out of the race without a word.

"In 1992 I nominated myself because I did not agree with the condition of the PDI, but now I have support from other groups and have been nominated," she said.

She is backed by two non-government organisations, one of which she heads. Observers estimate the two groups have no more than 100 supporters.

Outspoken former parliamentarian Sri Bintang Pamungkas nominated himself as a presidential candidate last year.

He is currently serving a 34-month jail sentence for insulting Mr Suharto while on a speaking tour in Germany. Mr Suharto has been in power for nearly 30 years and most observers believe he will run for another five-year term. His re-election in March is a formality once he has signalled to his key players he will run again.

An aide to opposition politician Megawati Sukarnoputri said yesterday she had not been informed of a decision by foreign correspondents in Singapore to cancel an invitation for a speaking engagement.