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Wanted: A credible president

Jakarta Post - December 16, 1998

Jakarta – A resounding majority of people believe Indonesia has a leadership crisis, a new survey says. Good leadership is important, particularly at a time of an acute national crisis. Is Indonesia undergoing a leadership crisis? The Jakarta Post and the D&R news magazine commissioned a poll to find out what people think about the issue.

The poll, involving 1,250 people in five cities, however found that many people believe that one or two existing public figures can rise to the challenge and become the next president of the country, if given the chance.

Their idea of national leaders are those found outside the present government structure: Megawati Soekarnoputri, Amien Rais, Abdurrahman Wahid and Sultan Hamengku-buwono X fill the top four slots as most favorite leaders. President B.J. Habibie is fifth.

The survey was conducted by the Resource Productivity Center in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Padang and Medan. The 250 respondents in each of the five cities were selected at random, comprising 65 percent men and 3 5 percent women.

Nearly 74 percent of the respondents agreed that there is a national leadership crisis. Most pointed to the slow pace of reform, and Habibie's failure to accommodate the people's aspirations, as their main reasons.

Of the 25 percent who rejected the idea that there is a crisis, 41 percent said many figures with the potential to lead have not been given the chance. More than 26 percent who said there was no crisis however insisted that Habibie is a legitimate president.

Although the poll results reflect the low public opinion of Habibie's leadership, 48 percent believe that the President should be allowed to complete his term until he has organized both a general election and a presidential election next year.

Only 44 percent believe that the four "Ciganjur leaders" – Megawati Amien, Abdurrahman and Hamengkubuwono who met at Abdurrahman's residence in Ciganjur last month – should form a transitional government and take over from Habibie.

Megawati is the chairperson of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) Perjuangan and daughter of Indonesia's first president Sukarno; Amien led the reform campaign to force Soeharto to resign in May and now chairs the People's Mandate Party (PAN); Abdurrahman is a known prodemocracy leader and chairman of the massive Nahdlatul Ulama Moslem organization: Hamengkubuwono is the nationally respected ruler of the Yogyakarta sultanate.

Habibie. who has led since May, is Indonesia's third president since independence in 1945. Although serving as a transitional president until a successor is democratically elected next year, he has not ruled out running for the post.

Indonesia's first two presidents, Sukarno (1945-1966) and Soeharto (1966-1998), governed this huge archipelago with iron fists, albeit in very different styles.

This raises the troubling question whether it would have been possible for them to keep such a diverse nation united without resorting to the use of force and intimidation. Can any democratically elected leader keep the country together without being constantly dogged by opponents? While Soeharto's downfall has raised some hopes, history is not on Indonesia's side.

Most of the respondents (65 percent) hold out the hopes that there are people capable of leading this country, but that he or she has not yet emerged largely because of the repressive political system (61 percent) and because of the constant intervention of the Armed Forces in politics (32 percent).

Of the 34 percent respondents who took a pessimistic view about the ability of anyone to lead the nation, 51 percent said not a single existing public figure fulfilled the criteria for becoming national leader, and 24 percent even said existing leaders are only hungry for political power for themselves.

When asked to name two qualities most important in a leader, "integrity and trustworthiness" came top, followed by "popular support", "wise" and "visionary". "Intelligence", "able to motivate others" and "piety" were not rated too highly by respondents.

When asked to name and rate the figures that come closest to the requisite qualities of a national leader, Megawati heads the list with 44 percent, and Amien Rais is second with 31 percent. Hamengkubuwono Abdurrahman and Habibie are third, fourth and fifth.

The poll asked respondents about the leadership strengths and weaknesses of the four Ciganjur figures. Megawati's main weaknesses include her being a political novice and a female, while her main strengths are her widespread support, her charisma and wisdom.

Amien's chief weaknesses are that he is seen as too ambitious and lacking in principles, while his main strengths are his intelligence and his image as a champion of reform.

Hamengkubuwono's main drawbacks are his image as a provincial figure and that he lacks widespread support; his strengths are that he is a simple and popular figure, and has charisma and wisdom.

Abdurrahman's main weaknesses are his ailing health and, like Amien, his lack of principles his strengths are the widespread support he enjoys, and that he has charisma and wisdom.

The majority of the respondents agreed that Indonesia's next president should be elected directly by the people, rather than by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) as has been the practice all this time and mandated by the constitution.

On many of the questions the respondents were allowed to give more than one answer, thus some of the given answers exceeded 100 percent. The results have a five percent error margin.