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Election becomes family affair KEMUMU - Indonesia's parliamentary election is largely a tale of two former strongmen and their daughters. As the April 5 election approaches, the three daughters of Sukarno, Indonesia's founding president, and one of ex-dictator Suharto are hoping to capitalize on their political pedigrees and on nostalgia for a past many Indonesians think was better than the current messy democracy. It shows the power of a famous face in a country where few parties have coherent political platforms or policies to deal with endemic corruption.
Their campaign appearances, bareheaded and wearing skirts or pantsuits, illustrate the relaxed attitudes toward women in this overwhelmingly Muslim society. Shouting "Long live Suharto!" the crowd in this poor farming region surges forward to shake hands with Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, the 55-year-old daughter of their ousted dictator, as she arrives in the south Sumatran town of Kemumu. "Suharto sends his warm regards to you all," Rukmana, popularly known as "Tutut," shouts from the stage set up on a dusty soccer ground. Several thousand spectators roar their approval.
The other father-daughter connection consists of the incumbent president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and her sisters Rachmawati and Sukmawati. Their father was Sukarno, the revered founder of independent Indonesia. Each has her own party,and each claims Sukarno's political mantle. The two families are bound together by history. Suharto overthrew Sukarno in a 1965 coup in which at least 500,000 leftists were killed, and kept him under house arrest until his death in 1970. Suharto, 82, was toppled in 1998 in pro-democracy protests, and rarely leaves his Jakarta mansion. He faces corruption charges, but his lawyers claim he is unfit to stand trial.
Traveling aboard a luxurious private jet, Rukmana has visited most of the outlying regions of the 3,000 mile-long island chain in recent weeks, always pitching the same line - life was better under her father. "They miss his era. Look at the way they stop my car and try and shake my hand," Rukmana told The Associated Press after the Kemumu rally. Her campaign is aimed chiefly at poor rural voters who associated her father's reign with low prices and political stability - not the graft and brutality that Suharto's critics say were his chief legacies.
"If this is what reform is like, then it has failed," said Tartigo Makmur, a farmer attending the rally. "It was a good time under Suharto. Things were peaceful and our international reputation was high." Suharto's U.S.-backed dictatorship muzzled the media, rigged elections, and is alleged to have embezzled at least $15 billion during his 32-year tenure, according to the Berlin-based watchdog group Transparency International. Rukmana, like all the Suharto children, has a huge business empire. She also has a formidable war chest, her party's TV campaign ads run daily, and banners bearing father-daughter images are strung across main streets across the country.
Suharto's old party, Golkar, is also contesting the elections, and opinion polls show it could emerge as the largest group in the 550-seat parliament. It takes credit for the stability under Suharto but distances itself from the ex-dictator. Rukmana's party accuses Golkar of betraying her father. Her campaign team says the party's target is three percent of the votes, which would qualify her to run against President Megawati in Indonesia's first direct presidential election July 5. The Suharto and Sukarno families rarely meet, but there appears to be little enmity between them, and Megawati, 57, has not supported efforts to prosecute Suharto.
Rachmawati, 53, doesn't hide her dislike of her powerful older sister, the president, though 51-year-old Sukmawati denies media reports of a family feud. "Don't worry, we have a good relations," she told the AP. Both sisters accuse Megawati of ignoring the legions of poor people their father championed. "The government has been unable to represent the aspirations of the people," said Sukmawati. "In other words, it has failed." Sukarno "was the best leader we have ever known," said Achmad Muktar, a Sukmawati supporter. "Megawati may be his biological daughter, but there is no way she has inherited his ideology."



Posted in Elections @ 01 April 2004 00:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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