Thursday, January 29, 2009
(b. 1947), President of the Republic of Indonesia. Megawati Sukarnoputri is the daughter of Indonesia's founderand first president, Sukarno (1901–1970), who ruled in Indonesia from 1949 to 1965. She attended two universities but never earned a degree. Though born in Java and raised as a Muslim, Megawati lived in Bali where she built up a large base of political support amongst the Hindu and Christian communities of the outer islands. Megawati became a prominent figure in Indonesia, when in 1995 she won control of the Christian-nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), one of three legal parties under the regime of Suharto (b. 1921), 1965–1998. For many years Megawati accepted the status quo imposed by Suharto's New Order regime. She started to become critical of the Suharto regime in 1994–1995, accusing it of rampant nepotism and corruption. Angered at her outspokenness, in June 1996 a government-backed faction of the PDI ousted her from the party's leadership in an extraordinary party congress. The regime's heavy-handed tactics backfired and triggered mass demonstrations in Jakarta that ultimately led to Suharto's resignation in May 1998.
Megawati Sukarnoputri at a rally in February 2000 at which party members endorsed her for president. (AFP/CORBIS)
Owing to her political pedigree, Megawati became a symbol of opposition to the regime. Megawati established a new party, the Indonesia Struggle for Democracy Party (PDI-P) in 1998. The party won the most seats in the June 1999 election, but did not achieve an outright majority. Megawati was outmaneuvered, and a coalition of Islamic parties instead elected Abdurrahman Wahid (b. 1940), a moderate Islamic cleric and the head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama. In a power-sharing agreement, Megawati became vice president. Following Wahid's impeachment for incompetence and economic mismanagement in August 2001, Megawati became Indonesia's fifth president. Megawati has been under attack from the Muslim-oriented parties and publicly criticized for her lack of decisive leadership in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis.
Megawati was the first Muslim leader to visit the United States following the 11 September 2001 attacks, and while she condemned all terrorist acts, she was also very critical of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.
Schwartz, Adam. (1999) A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia's Search for Stability. 2d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.