Sukarnoputri, Megawati


Sukarnoputri, Megawati
▪ 2000

      On Oct. 21, 1999, the People's Consultative Assembly elected Megawati Sukarnoputri vice president of Indonesia. A daughter of Sukarno, the founding father and first president of Indonesia, she thus became another member of the Asian group of widows or daughters of prominent men—including Indira Gandhi of India, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar—who had gone on to achieve political power in their own right. Although she was a reticent person and was in the opinion of some not a particularly effective politician, she had long been identified as a threat to Indonesian president Suharto, who had replaced her father in 1967. There was no question but that she had become the best known of the opponents of the Suharto regime.

      Megawati Sukarnoputri was born on Jan. 23, 1947, in Jakarta, Indon. She studied psychology and agriculture in college but did not take a degree. A housewife and mother, she was elected in 1987 to the national parliament and in 1993 became head of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). She was banned in 1995 from ceremonies commemorating the 25th anniversary of her father's death. In June 1996 the government engineered her removal as head of the PDI, thereby disqualifying her from running for president in the elections scheduled for 1998. In July her supporters marched in Jakarta and were attacked by government soldiers, and police raided the party headquarters, where members were conducting a sit-in. The resulting riots and fires were the worst in the capital city in more than 20 years. The government then barred Megawati from running in the 1996 parliamentary elections.

      Suharto, beset by the collapse of the Indonesian economy and by widespread protests and violence, lost the support of key elements within the country, including the military, and he resigned in May 1998. In the following October Megawati and her supporters formed the left-of-centre Democratic Party for Struggle and in the June 1999 parliamentary elections took 34% of the vote, the best showing of any of the parties. When Bacharuddin Jusuf (“B.J.”) Habibie, the unpopular interim president, withdrew, it was widely thought that the People's Consultative Assembly might elect Megawati as president. On October 20, however, the assembly chose Abdurrahman Wahid, a moderate cleric and the head of the National Awakening Party, for the post. There were widespread protests because Megawati had been passed over, but the next day the assembly chose her as the country's vice president. Wahid was in ill health, and it was suggested that Megawati might exercise more influence and power in the new government than would otherwise be the case.

Robert Rauch

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▪ president of Indonesia
in full  Dyah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri 
born January 23, 1947, Jakarta, Indonesia

      Indonesian politician who was the fifth president of Indonesia (2001–04).

      The daughter of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, Sukarnoputri studied psychology and agriculture in college but did not take a degree. In 1987 she entered politics and was elected to the People's Consultative Assembly (national parliament), becoming head of the Indonesian Democratic Party (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia; PDI) in 1993. She grew to be a threat to Indonesian president Suharto (who had replaced Sukarno in 1967), and in June 1996 the government engineered her removal as head of the PDI, thereby disqualifying her from running for president in the 1998 elections. Protests by her supporters in Jakarta in July prompted a government crackdown that spawned the worst riots and fires in the capital city in more than 20 years. Sukarnoputri was barred from running in the 1996 parliamentary elections.

      In October 1998, after Suharto had resigned from office (May), Sukarnoputri and her supporters formed the left-of-centre Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle) (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan; PDI-P), and in the June 1999 parliamentary elections PDI-P took 34 percent of the vote, the best showing of any party. When Bacharuddin Jusuf (“B.J.”) Habibie, the unpopular interim president who had succeeded Suharto, withdrew, it was widely thought that the People's Consultative Assembly would elect Sukarnoputri president. However, on October 20, the assembly chose Abdurrahman Wahid of the National Awakening Party, unleashing widespread protests by Sukarnoputri's supporters; the next day she was chosen the country's vice president. Faced with growing criticism of his administration, Wahid in 2000 handed over much of the day-to-day operations to Sukarnoputri, but his difficulties continued. On July 23, 2001, the People's Consultative Assembly removed Wahid from office and named Sukarnoputri president, and she was sworn in later that day.

      As president, Sukarnoputri faced a number of problems, including a failing economy, a separatist movement in the province of Aceh, and terrorist attacks. In October 2002 more than 200 people were killed and some 300 injured when a car bomb exploded outside a Bali nightclub; the attack was attributed to an Islamic militant group. Later that year she oversaw the signing of a cease-fire with Aceh separatists, but the fighting soon resumed, and in 2003 the government launched a major military offensive against the rebels. More bombings followed, including an attack on the Indonesian parliament. Sukarnoputri's government was also beset by charges of corruption and was criticized for its inability to lower the country's high unemployment rate. Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (her former security minister) prevailed in the first round of the 2004 presidential election, but he easily won a subsequent runoff vote and succeeded her in October.

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Universalium. 2010.

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