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Cabinet power struggle persists

Jakarta Post - August 4, 2001

Jakarta – Political parties have submitted their candidates for the new Cabinet but the lineup will not be announced until next Thursday, largely due to a power struggle within Megawati's own party.

Three of the country's largest parties, the Golkar Party, the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), all confirmed on Friday that they had presented their candidates to President Megawati Soekarnoputri for consideration.

Golkar submitted 10 names, PPP three and PAN two. PPP nominated Bachtiar Chamsyah, Alimarwan Hanan and Sugiharto, while PAN submitted Hatta Radjasa and former finance minister Bambang Sudibyo. Golkar, however, would not disclose the names of its candidates.

Megawati and Vice President Hamzah Haz held a private meeting at the Bogor Presidential Palace on Friday to finalize the Cabinet lineup. No statement was issued following the meeting.

Hamzah, after attending his party's executive meeting later on Friday, said that the Cabinet's structure was almost certain to remain the same as the current one. "There won't be much change. We are only going to revive the ministry of social affairs," Hamzah said.

The Vice President also denied rumors that the Indonesian Military (TNI), which played a pivotal role in removing former president Abdurrahman Wahid and propelling Megawati to power, had asked for eight seats in the Cabinet.

He added that special attention would be paid to the economic team and "we will only use people who have the respect of the market". He said that the Cabinet lineup would be announced on Thursday and sworn in on Friday.

The delay in naming the Cabinet has made the financial markets nervous and raised concern that the President may be struggling to accommodate diverse political allies.

Golkar Party chairman Akbar Tandjung urged the President to make the decision on the lineup and announce it as soon as possible to dispel speculation. "I really expect the President to announce the Cabinet lineup soon or the government will loose the momentum and market confidence achieved following the appointment of the new national leadership," Akbar said.

Another Golkar executive said the squabbling among political parties for key positions in the Cabinet had concluded, as they had basically agreed that they would let Megawati decide the lineup based on names they had submitted.

The problem now lies within Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), according to Syamsul Muarif, chairman of the Golkar Party faction at the House of Representatives.

He said Megawati was now facing conflicting demands from her own members. "As you know there are many factions in the party and her [vice presidential] secretary may have been expressing different views concerning the Cabinet," he told The Jakarta Post.

Outgoing vice presidential secretary Bambang Kesowo was often said to be one of Megawati's strong influences and is said to have urged the President to include more professionals in the Cabinet. "From what I have heard, there has also been strong pressure from Soetjipto, Sophan Sophiaan, Arifin Panigoro, Theo Syafei and her husband Taufik Kiemas. These five figures strive for more influence over her," Syamsul added.

Soetjipto is currently the party's secretary general, Sophan is chairman of the party's faction at the People's Consultative Assembly, Arifin is chairman of the party's faction at the House and Maj Gen (ret) Theo Syafei is a party deputy chairman. "So, there is no elaborate political bargaining among the parties because, during the political leaders' meeting on Thursday, they hardly discussed the posts or the candidates. It was to their advantage," he remarked.

A PDI Perjuangan executive, who requested anonymity, confirmed with the Post that a power struggle among party executives had stalled the Cabinet announcement. "Yes, there is a power struggle inside the party. We only hope that Ibu Mega will not be influenced by this struggle when appointing the Cabinet," the executive said.