Sukarno's dynasty is all that glitters in ruling party PDI-P

Sukarno's dynasty is all that glitters in ruling party PDI-P
Balinese colors: The chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Megawati Soekarnoputri (center), poses with Balinese dancers who perform during an informal party gathering Wednesday night ahead of a national congress that will last until Sunday.

As the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is set to hold a congress to usher in a new board of management, talk is emerging on the future prospects of the party being led by the third-generation of Indonesia founding father Sukarno.

Puan Maharani, 41, Muhammad Prananda Prabowo, 43, and Puti Guntur Soekarno, 43, are among the new breed vying for the party's future leadership, as Sukarno's second child, Megawati Soekarnoputri, 68, is set to retain her crown, unchallenged, to lead the ruling party for another five years.

In the past couple of weeks, several PDI-P politicians have floated the idea of nominating Puan as the party's deputy chairperson, a position that has never existed, to prepare her to receive the leadership baton from her mother.

"There is this idea to have Mbak Puan as the party's deputy chairperson. That's obvious as Bu Mega wants someone that she can trust to run the party," PDI-P legislator Trimedya Panjaitan said recently.

While refusing to confirm the proposal of her new position during the congress held from Thursday to Saturday in Bali, Puan explained that regeneration in the party had been carried out smoothly.

"I believe leadership regeneration in the PDI-P is remarkable as we have posted our best members on all [central and regional] executive and legislative fronts, despite the fact we have been in opposition for 10 years," Puan said on Tuesday.

The mother of three has the stronger hand in political leadership and management, compared to her brother Prananda and her cousin Puti.

Puan is now the coordinating human development and culture minister as well as the party's chief of politics and institutional relations.

She has also helped prevent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo from falling into a downward spiral in his rift with Megawati.

With her unique role as a member of the party's top brass and a messenger for Megawati, Puan seems to have a special place in Jokowi's circle of aides as she is often in his company when he deals with the leaders of the PDI-P and other parties.

She accompanied Jokowi to lobby House of Representatives leaders on Monday to approve the nomination of Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti as the next National Police chief. She arrived at the House in the same car as Jokowi from the State Palace.

Puan's possible rise was previously downplayed as many widely believed Megawati's son, Prananda, had a greater chance of outshining Puan, given his charisma and close ties to his mother.

Puan is Megawati's daughter from the late Taufiq Kiemas, her third husband, while Prananda is from her first marriage with the late Air Force pilot Surindro Supjarso.

Unlike Puan, Prananda's first public appearance was not until 2010, when he accompanied Megawati and Pramono Anung in a press conference during the party's congress.

Having preferred largely to stay behind the scenes, Prananda has refused to occupy structural positions in the PDI-P and has only agreed to lead a unit in the party as chief of control room and situation analysis. One of his jobs is to write Megawati's speeches.

Prananda found the limelight again as he constantly accompanied Jokowi during the latter's presidential campaign last year. He was among the first PDI-P members to support Jokowi's nomination.

After Jokowi won the presidential election in July, Prananda became involved in Jokowi's transition team and was part of his inner-circle.

Since then, Jokowi has tasked Prananda with leading a task force to prepare him when he goes on his well-known blusukan (impromptu visits).

However, the outlook of many analysts that Prananda would play a significant role in Jokowi's policy making, as well as in the management of the PDI-P, seemed to have lost significance as Prananda has faded from view.

As Pranada's influence subsides and Puan is left centre stage, their cousin Puti, the daughter of Sukarno's first child Guntur, vied to climb the party's chain of command after becoming a PDI-P legislator in 2009.

Puti recently made a bid to lead the party's Jakarta chapter, but was thwarted by incumbent Boy Sadikin, who defeated Puti in a vote in March.

Puti's failure exposed the reality that Sukarno's influence could no longer be a determining factor.

A recent study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) showed that 51.2 per cent of PDI-P regional leaders supported the party being ruled by a member of the Sukarno family, while the other 48.8 per cent said otherwise.

The CSIS also revealed that Megawati would not be able to obtain absolute support from local chapter leaders, unlike in the past.

On the potential of the party's leaders, the study said Jokowi was most highly rated with 26.6 per cent, followed by Puan Maharani at 22.8 per cent.

PDI-P faction secretary Bambang Wuryanto said on Wednesday that Megawati was aware of the survey and was in the process of preparing several members to lead the party in the future.

"Among them is Mbak Puan. She will be groomed to be tough in politics but her skills need sharpening," he said. "Others also have similar opportunities, including Jokowi."

Bambang argued that the public perception of the PDI-P as a "family party" was irrelevant. "There are dynasties everywhere. What's important is that we have a qualified leadership."

The PDI-P is synonymous with Megawati, who built the party during the last decade of the New Order regime.

Megawati was an opposition icon during Soeharto's rule and up until his fall in 1998. A year later, in 1999, the PDI-P won the legislative election, but Megawati was only able to secure the number two position to Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, who was elected the country's fourth president in 1999.

Megawati replaced Gus Dur in 2001 after he was impeached. She served until 2004.

Following her brief stint as president, Megawati lost two direct presidential elections to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004 and 2009, and preferred to remain in opposition for 10 years.

As a uniting figure in the party that won the legislative election last year, Megawati's influence has gradually subsided with the rise of Jokowi, a mayor from a small town in Central Java who gained nationwide prominence in less than three years.

Political analyst Hasan Nasbi of the Cyrus Network said maintaining Megawati as PDI-P chairwoman would damage the party, which was already known for depending on the Sukarno family.

"The PDI-P has never been accustomed to differences. This will be perilous in the long run if it has no uniting figure like Megawati. The party will be full of members competing in an unruly environment that will eventually destroy the party," he said.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.