Wiranto willing to serve as v-president

INDONESIAN armed forces (TNI) chief General Wiranto is willing to serve as running mate to newly elected President
Abdurrahman Wahid, a military spokesman said yesterday.

Barely two days after Gen Wiranto’s dramatic announcement not to take part in the presidential race and in a clear sign that the TNI still wanted a stake in the new political format, Major-General Sudradjat said the military would

“wholeheartedly let him go” if the national assembly wanted him. “TNI belongs to all groups and parties,” he said on television. “If the majority of parties want Wiranto to be nominated as vice-president, then for TNI that’s a call of duty.

Wiranto has said that if the people need him, he will think about it … I am sure the TNI will let him go.”

Some observers have speculated that the Javanese general and Mr Abdurrahman could have sealed a deal in advance for the military’s backing for the latter.

Gen Wiranto was said to have consulted the Islamic scholar and Mr Suharto before he took the decision to pull out from the race. But he left himself an escape clause in that six-minute speech to nation that suggested “that I will carry out my duty if I’m really needed by the nation and state”.

Senior military sources said the four-star general, who has been castigated at home and abroad mainly for the East Timor debacle, was “very much open to the idea but does not want to be seen as grabbing power”.

“But in his heart, he still wants the job very badly even if it is the consolation prize,” said a general.

Mr Abdurrahman is known to have two other vice-presidential candidates on the list – Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung and Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, who lost out to the Muslim leader. Late last night, Mr Akbar said he was nominated officially by his party as vice-presidential candidate and had consulted Mr Abdurrahman. “Because everybody in the party … supports my nomination, I finally accept it.”

He said he initially refused to run for the post.

But Mr Muhaimin Iskandar, the secretary-general of Mr Abdurrahman’s Nation Awakening Party (PKB), said the President favoured Ms Megawati as his running mate. PDI-P sources suggested that she was unlikely to take up the offer.

The Muslim United Development Party (PPP) also named its chairman, Mr Hamzah Haz, as candidate to second the country’s newly elected president, a PPP executive said.

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