We will win big’

Megawati proud of performance since 2001, confident polls will reflect it

With just 10 days to go, a confident President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday declared that her party would win convincingly at the polls, as she outlined her credentials to lead Indonesia for another five years.

In an interview with The Straits Times, she said her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) had been preparing for the elections for the last four years, and there was very little chance of it losing ground to its rivals.

‘In 1999, we won about 34 per cent of the votes,’ she noted. This time, she said, PDI-P is gunning for 50 per cent, even though recent polls show the party slipping in the popularity stakes.

‘My confidence in the party is very high,’ she said. ‘Our party structures right down to the grassroots are ready for this election.’

Much of that confidence stems from her conviction that she has turned Indonesia’s flagging fortunes around since coming to power in 2001.

Ms Megawati was relaxed as she spelt out her achievements.

For one, there was political stability and greater security today. Referring to trouble-prone areas like Maluku and Aceh, she said: ‘Many of the conflicts have been resolved or are in the process of being sorted out.’

Economically, Indonesia was also doing much better now; the rupiah had stabilised, the stock exchange index did not fluctuate as badly as it did before and the income-divide was diminishing.

If she were re-elected, she said, she would stay the course to achieve the goals she had in mind. One, she stressed, was to build a million homes for the poor.

‘I am very proud of it,’ she said of her welfare programme, ‘but it is not 100 per cent complete.’

Her officials had calculated that it would take 15 years to meet the million-home goal.

But she said: ‘We don’t need to wait that long.

‘It will be my main target when I am in power again for the next five years.’

Of her approach to problem-solving, she said: ‘I am not someone who is patient. I don’t like to procrastinate – I prefer to deal with it immediately if I can.’

Sitting in the interview room, with a portrait of her father, Sukarno, behind her, she said she learnt most from Indonesia’s first president about getting things done.

‘When I was young, he told me something that up until today I will always treasure as the best piece of advice I ever got: Just work and the solution will come.’

She was more guarded about her election strategies. Asked about her choice of running mate, she said ideally the coalition should be ‘between the nationalist-religious and religious-nationalist’.

Her husband Taufik Kiemas, an influential PDI-P legislator, told The Straits Times earlier that the palace was interested in courting someone with strong Islamic credentials. ‘Ibu Mega is a nationalist Muslim. She needs to team up with a Muslim nationalist to make it a winning combination.’

He revealed that there were three candidates on her list: the Nadhlatul Ulama chairman Hasyim Muzadi, Golkar’s Jusuf Kalla and Education Minister Malik Fadjar.

But the President made clear that nothing had been decided yet. ‘Having been a politician for years let me tell you that speculation and theories sometimes never work. We have to pay attention to the realities on the ground.’

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