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Pakpahan backs Megawati for president

Indonesian Observer - February 26, 1999 (posted March 1)

Jakarta – The political party founded by independent labor leader Muchtar Pakpahan yesterday announced it will nominate opposition figurehead Megawati Soekarnoputri for the presidency.

The National Labor Party (PBN) will solicit public support for Megawati's nomination in the November presidential election when the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) convenes, Pakpahan said in the Bali capital of Denpasar yesterday.

Pakpahan is leader of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (PBSI) and was released from jail last year after the fall of ex-president Soeharto. He was in the resort island to attend the launch of a provincial PBN branch. Bali is one of the strongholds of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party Perjuangan (PDI Perjuangan).

Pakpahan said Megawati, daughter of founding president Soekarno, is qualified to be a presidential candidate, because she is attuned to the needs and problems of the oppressed masses.

She also has a strong sense of nationalism, with which she will be able to successfully carry out various national duties, Pakpahan added. Apart from that, he said Megawati's honesty, sincere fighting spirit and political consistency have already been proved, particularly when she was persecuted by the corpulent Soeharto's New Order government.

"We feel that Megawati Soekarnoputri as leader of PDI Perjuangan will be able to attract the sympathy of many people, and that can be seen by witnessing her many supporters," Pakpahan was quoted as saying. He said the PBN will set up a coalition with Megawati's party and the National Awakening Party (PKB), which was established by the nation's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

Both PDI Perjuangan and the PKB have similar platforms with the PBN in fighting for grassroots people.

Pakpahan, who is also chairman of the PBN advisory board, called on other parties whose supporters are lower-class people to form alliances with his party, PDI Perjuangan and the PKB.

Megawati has officially been nominated by her party to challenge incumbent President B.J. Habibie and outspoken opposition figure Amien Rais. Other leading hopefuls include Megawati's close friend Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of the 40- million strong NU.

In the Central Java capital of Semarang, Deputy Chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) Karmani said his party will nominate one of its own cadres for the presidency.

He said it's "unethical" to nominate another party's leader for the presidency. Earlier, PPP Chairman Hamzah Haz said his party may nominate President B.J. Habibie as its presidential hopeful. Karmani said that if that happens, it means the PPP doesn't trust the abilities of its own cadres.

"If the next president is later elected from another party, it's no problem. However, the PPP will announce one of its cadres as its presidential candidate," he said.

Ruling Golkar Party Chairman Akbar Tandjung on Wednesday night insisted that Habibie is still its best candidate, but said an official decision has not yet been made.

"Officially, the would-be president has not been determined, and we will discuss it at the appropriate time through Golkar's organizational mechanisms," he told Golkar cadres in Surabaya, East Java.