MRS Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P), has reminded party cadre Joko Widodo to fulfil his campaign promises.
Her call came in a keynote address yesterday to open a four-day party congress in Bali. She told President Joko and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, who was also present, to toe the party line and cautioned Mr Joko against being influenced by those she called "opportunists".
In the 35-minute speech, the 68-year-old former president said: "(The president) did not get voted in as an independent. The president and vice-president are carried by political parties."
It was only fair that the president follows the ruling party's will because the party was elected by the people who agreed with its policies and principles, she said.
The speech was an indication of the frustrations the PDI-P faces in engaging with the president and also revealed the mounting pressure on Mr Joko to restore trust with his own party.
Mrs Megawati's name has surfaced recently as the force behind the president's key decisions, casting doubt over his independence.
It is the first time that the country's leader is not the leader of his party. Thus, the congress of Indonesia's largest political party is being watched as a measure of how Mr Joko's relations with his party will progress, and how this will affect his presidency.
Less than half a year since he took office, many cadres have openly criticised his policies. His relationship with Mrs Megawati appears to have turned frosty, especially after his poor handling of the appointment of her preference for Commissioner-General Budi Gunawan as police chief. The latter was dropped after being suspected of graft.
Earlier, senior party cadres had told The Straits Times that their party blamed three people for blocking their communications with the president, namely Chief of Staff Luhut Panjaitan, Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto and State-owned Enterprise Minister Rini Soemarno, a former Megawati-loyalist.
In her speech, Mrs Megawati lashed out at those she said were trying to ride on the presidency.
"There is a movement to (detach the political party and presidency)...
"But those are opportunists who do not want to work hard to build up a political party, who do not want to rally and win over the electorate, but are waiting in the corner to take over power," she said, without naming names.
PDI-P senior cadre Pramono Anung told reporters Mrs Megawati was reminding Mr Joko of his role and that it was she who groomed him into a mayor, then a governor and now president. "I am convinced that he is humble, since he is of the people, that in these few months, he is still adjusting to his role," he said. "So why can't he talk to experienced politicians like Mrs Megawati?"
Mrs Megawati fanned nationalistic sentiments when she said Indonesia should not wantonly sell its natural resources to foreigners.
"Indonesia has to be really firm in renegotiation of oil-gas and mining contracts, many of which will be expiring soon. This is the moment, under a new leader, that the contract of the Red-White (Indonesia) have to be upheld," she said to loud applause.
However, she also denied that she was closing off the country to foreigners.
Over the next few days, party cadres are expected to select a secretary-general and chart a path for national elections in 2019.
This article was first published on Apr 10, 2015.
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