Question: Do you consider the proceedings which lead to Minister Habibie's nomination as the sole candidate for the vice presidency to be democratic?
Riswandha: The nomination does not reflect democracy because it was made outwith the General Session of the MPR. Democratic procedures would require the Assembly's five factions to collect ideas from the people on the problems faced by the nation and criteria for a vice president capable of solving these problems, before asking would-be candidates to disclose their visions. The Assembly is supposed to decide the candidates at its General Session.
A few weeks ago, some factions suggested several candidates for vice president but finally came up with Habibie as the sole candidate. What is your comment?
I think Habibie is the most suitable candidate for the political elite of this country who believe that Indonesia, when entering the 21st century, will have to improve its mastery of technology if it wants to grab a major share of the world market. Furthermore, Habibie's close personal relations with the sole presidential candidate, the incumbent President Soeharto, also helped to determined his nomination.
Do you consider the nomination of Habibie, who is also chairman of the Indonesian Moslem Intellectuals Association (ICMI), a victory for Soeharto or Moslem society?
It is a win-win situation for both Soeharto and the Moslem community (who make up the majority of the country's population). It is a victory for President Soeharto, who has groomed Habibie -- Soeharto has given him some 26 strategic positions. It is also a victory for the Moslems, from whom the government needs political support.
Rumors suggest that the nomination goes in tandem with Germany's offer to help Indonesia overcome its private sector debt problem and to support the country's aircraft industry, PT IPTN. What is your comment?
I also heard such a rumor and it has almost become reality It is merely a logical consequence of Habibie's close relations with Gerrnan leaders. German chancellor Helmut Kohl, for example, once said "Habibie is my brother". Germany, where Habibie was educated, surely does not want to see the failure of IPTN, a pet project of Habibie's.
Do you see a possibility that former cabinet member Emil Salim, who has the support of some prominent Indonesians, will be nominated as a vice presidential candidate at the General Session of the MPR?
The chance is slim because none of the factions have indicated his nomination. Support for Emil reflects a conflict among elite people, but not among laymen, who are now struggling to obtain adequate supplies of essential commodities.
Do you think Habibie will be able to cooperate with the next cabinet's economic team?
That will be a problem because Habibie's thoughts on the economy differ from those of a number of prominent economists.
Actually Indonesia needs three vice presidents to overcome its three major problems -- economy, technology and national unity -- but the constitution does not allow for this. However, Indonesia can have a triumvirate of Habibie (for technology development), an economic minister, for example businessman Tanri Abeng, and a military leader, probably the Armed Forces chief General Wiranto.
Do you think Habibie has the capacity to lead the country in the event of Soeharto being forced to terminate his presidency mid-term?
That question is difficult to answer. If Soeharto resigns in the middle of his next term, all possibilities, including political conflict, are open. If Habibie then automatically becomes president and supreme commander of the Armed Forces, will the Armed Forces accept him? Habibie on Sept. 26, 1996, made a speech that offended military officials and his decision to purchase used naval vessels from Germany was not widely accepted. So, the triumvirate may become an arena of political conflicts if Soeharto does not see out his full term. A political theory says that the strongest rival in politics is the closest alliance.
What job do you think Soeharto will assign Habibie to?
I think it is high tirne for the MPR to prescribe the job for a vice president because the next cabinet will bring the nation into the 21st century. The MPR should not let the president decide the job description for the vice president as he used to. It can, for example, assign the next vice president to improve efficiency in the bureaucracy and rid it of the practices of collusion-and corruption.
Will Habibie bring his men into the next cabinet?
I don't think it possible for Habibie to bring ICMI members into the cabinet. Soeharto, as usual, will accommodate people from various parties to keep a political balance and the cabinet will be a working team. But the cabinet will surely not include people who have thus far been critical of the government. (riz)