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Megawati sets terms for presidential run: paper

South China Morning Post - April 9, 2001

Reuters in Jakarta – Indonesia's Megawati Sukarnoputri has set three conditions for running to replace embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid, including guarantees she won't be challenged before her term ends, a newspaper said on Monday.

Vice-President Megawati, who has so far been guarded on her own ambitions, set the conditions during talks with political leaders working to topple Mr Wahid, the Media Indonesia daily quoted an unnamed source close to the vice-president saying.

She is also demanding the vice-presidency be left vacant and that annual sessions of the top legislature – which has the power to sack and appoint presidents – be abandoned.

The source said leading politicians, who were not named, had agreed to two of the conditions. "But regarding the issue that vice-presidency should be left vacant, it's tough. No one can guarantee that," he said.

Calls for the near-blind president to resign have increased since parliament censured him in February over two graft scandals. Mr Wahid has rejected the censure as "baseless".

Mr Wahid and several other political leaders last week rejected a suggestion that one way out of the mounting political crisis would be to change the constitution to allow Ms Megawati to run government and turn his job into a largely ceremonial role.

Fears are growing that as the political temperature rises, Mr Wahid's sometimes fanatical supporters could turn violent.

Parliament is due to meet at the end of April to consider its response to Mr Wahid's reply to the censure. A second formal reprimand, which could pave the way for an impeachment hearing by the top legislature, is considered almost inevitable.

But the source said Ms Megawati and her Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) would even back away from the second censure if she did not win agreement that she could rule without a deputy if she replaces Mr Wahid. "From the very beginning, Megawati doesn't want any vice-president," the source said.

Mr Wahid last week proposed peace talks with Ms Megawati and the heads of both legislatures to strike a compromise to end the political tensions crippling government and driving the stock market and rupiah to two-year lows.