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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 00:19 GMT 01:19 UK
Analysis: Megawati's first year
Megawati Sukarnoputri with her cabinet (AP photo)
Megawati was sworn into office on 23 July 2001

Twelve months on from the crisis that led to her being sworn into office as Indonesia's fourth president in three years, Megawati Sukarnoputri is being credited for a lowering in the country's political temperature.

But hopes that she would set in train meaningful reform for the country's judiciary and political system have been frustrated as the new president's conservative instincts have become clearer.


She has brought about stability

Professor Juwono Sudarsono
As a sign of the new-found calm, the coalition government which Megawati brought together has stayed intact.

In contrast to her predecessor Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati has not fired any cabinet members from her coalition, which groups together her nationalist PDI-P party with others including the Islamist United Development Party, which had earlier opposed her presidency on the basis of gender.

"She has brought about stability, Megawati has given a much clearer direction, compared to (President Wahid) who constantly changed his mind," says Professor Juwono Sudarsono, a political commentator from the University Of Indonesia who served as defence minister under President Wahid.

The military, another institution with political clout, has given her strong support.

Her assessment of the situation in the strife-torn north-western province of Aceh that the government needs to be tougher against the separatists has found favour in the military.

Abdurrahman Wahid
The former president is highly critical
Her government is considering implementing some sort of emergency rule in the province, as well as sending extra troops.

This is a sharp contrast to the situation under President Wahid, whose relationship with the military became strained towards the end of his presidency.

"(President Wahid) tried to meddle too much in the internal workings of the Armed Forces, Megawati has not done that, " says Juwono.

Critics' view

It is within her own party and the student movement that Megawati is having increasing problems.

Student demonstrators call her "Megawati Suhartoputri", or daughter of Suharto, complaining how little has changed since the former president's autocratic rule ended in 1998.

The students accuse President Megawati of failing to carry out reforms. They want her to stamp out the so called KKN, Korupsi, Kolusi, and Nepotisme, or corruption, collusion and nepotism.

They also point out that her government has made little progress in getting Indonesia out of a five-year economic crisis.

"Corruption has become much worse under Megawati," says former President Wahid.

While he cannot be expected to be an impartial observer, there are those within her party who are worried by Megawati's failure to crack down on corruption.

Three PDI-P Assembly members have resigned in protest over the past year. Earlier this month, the party voted with the Golkar party to ensure that its leader, Akbar Tandjung, escaped political censure over corruption allegations.

The irony that her party is in cahoots with Golkar, former President Suharto's political party, is not lost on her supporters.

Student protests in Indonesia
Students say there has not been enough reform
"She is authoritarian and aloof," says Mochtar Buchori, a PDI-P member of parliament and former adviser to Megawati, using the two words which were used to describe President Suharto.

Another issue which has damaged Megawati's credibility as a reformer is her hesitation in backing direct presidential elections. These are due to take place in 2004 but Megawati said she was concerned they might spark widespread unrest.

Mixed economy

Critics used the issue to argue that she wanted to preserve the authoritarian nature of Suharto's regime.

Political stability has translated into a more stable economic environment. The Indonesian currency, the Rupiah, is stronger and the Jakarta Stock Exchange has performed well this year.

Relations with the International Monetary Fund have improved considerably, though this angers those of her supporters who are opposed to IMF policies on privatisation and cutting subsidies.

But other economic indicators are more worrying. Export earnings for the first six months are down from the same period last year, while there has been a net outflow of capital in the last four years to the tune of $10bn a year.

While the country's economy is expected to grow at around 3% this year, that is not enough to absorb the 1.8 million Indonesians who enter the workforce each year.

So the wider economic outlook is not bright.

So far this has not translated into significant political problems for Megawati.

So long as she enjoys the support of all the main political parties and the military, voices of dissent from within her party, and from students, are minor irritants.

It has been a relatively trouble-free 12 months, but worsening economic conditions could make things a lot less comfortable.



See also:

17 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
22 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
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