Megawati urged not to run for president

Megawati urged not to run for president
Observers and PDI-P insiders believe Ms Megawati should step aside in the presidential race for a more popular figure, such as Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (above).

INDONESIA - With just two months to go before the election year starts, observers and party insiders have suggested that former president Megawati Sukarnoputri take a tip from India's Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi - do not seek the top job again, opt out instead while retaining a considerable amount of political influence.

Their concern comes as Ms Megawati, chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), continues to defer a decision on whether she will make another run for the presidency at a time when opinion polls suggest her party has a clear shot at power after 10 years on the outside.

These surveys suggest that the PDI-P, the main opposition party, is likely to do best if Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, is its presidential candidate.

Analysts like Dr J. Kristiadi of Jakarta's Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) say it is time she took a position as "mother of the nation" and step aside for a more popular leader like Mr Widodo.

Veteran political observer Salim Said told The Straits Times that the PDI-P will definitely qualify to field a presidential candidate.

"But if Ms Megawati runs, its chances of winning are slim," he said. "She has lost two times, while currently her popularity is not high."

Mr Widodo has been running well ahead of Gerindra patron Prabowo Subianto, Ms Megawati and Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie in recent polls.

A survey by national newspaper Kompas published in late August found Mr Widodo gathering support from 33 per cent of respondents, compared to 15 per cent for Mr Prabowo. No other potential candidate got more than 9 per cent.

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