Indonesia - Leadership



Megawati entered office with strong parliamentary, military, and public support. Her vision for the nation appeared to be her father's legacy: restoring Indonesia's unity, and keeping the country democratic but strong. Megawati is often described as charismatic but it is a very restrained charisma, unlike that of her flamboyant father. Her extraordinary quietness may project stability and thoughtfulness, especially after the vocal, impulsive Wahid; however, others see it as evidence of a limited intellect. She builds support in her party and government as a team player, commanding loyalty by being "motherly" to her supporters, and she relies on a trusted circle of influential advisors.

Despite her father's downfall at the hands of Suharto's military, Megawati's ties to the military appear strong. She and her husband are particularly close to General Endriartono Sutarto (a reformist), the army chief of staff; and Lt. General Ryamizard Ryacudu (a conservative), head of the Army Strategic Reserve. These officers are linked to her party and seen as potential backers for the 2004 election. Analysts warn of a return to military participation in Indonesian party politics, in spite of restrictions on actual military representation in the legislature. The military is considered conservative, opposing Islamic militancy and ethnic separatism.

Having entered office during a period of violent social chaos (with ethnic and economic roots) throughout the archipelago, Megawati's admininstration has thus far managed to calm the political situation without a return to military-style authoritarianism, and she has shown a more decisive leadership than her predecessor, Wahid. She appears to have been less proactive in promoting reform, particularly in fighting corruption. Her economic policy is criticized as hesitant and ineffective.

After more than a year in office, Megawati continues to reveal little of her positions or opinions on important issues. Megawati's insecurity regarding Indonesia's post-Suharto free press is quite apparent. She avoids interviews and press conferences, although she invited influential news editors along on her April 2002 Asian trip, in an apparent attempt to win their approval.

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