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Megawati Sukarnoputri

Megawati Sukarnoputri
5th President of Indonesia
In office
23 July 2001 – 20 October 2004
Vice President Hamzah Haz
Preceded by Abdurrahman Wahid
Succeeded by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
8th Vice President of Indonesia
In office
26 October 1999 – 23 July 2001
President Abdurrahman Wahid
Preceded by Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
Succeeded by Hamzah Haz
Personal details
Born (1947-01-23) 23 January 1947
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Political party Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle
Spouse(s) Surendro Supjarso (Deceased 1970)
Hassan Gamal Ahmad Hassan (1972)
Taufiq Kiemas (1973–2013)
Children Mohammad Rizki P
Mohammad Prananda
Puan Maharani
Parents Sukarno
Alma mater Padjadjaran University
University of Indonesia
Religion Sunni Islam

Diah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri,[1] usually shortened to Megawati Sukarnoputri (    born 23 January 1947), generally known as Megawati, is an Indonesian politician who served as president of Indonesia from 23 July 2001 to 20 October 2004.

Megawati is the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), one of Indonesia's largest political parties. She is the daughter of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno.

Megawati has been Indonesia's only female president and the fourth woman to lead a predominantly Muslim nation. She is also the first Indonesian leader to be born after Indonesia proclaimed independence. After serving as vice-president to Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati became president when Wahid was removed from office in 2001. She ran for re-election in the 2004 presidential election, but was defeated by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She sought a rematch in the 2009 presidential election, losing again to Yudhoyono.


  • Early life 1
    • Name 1.1
  • Political career 2
    • Member of the Legislative Branch 2.1
    • Chair of PDI 2.2
    • Reformasi 2.3
    • 1999 MPR General Session 2.4
  • Vice Presidency 3
    • Work as Vice President 3.1
    • 2000 PDI-P National Congress 3.2
    • Relationship with Wahid and rise to the Presidency 3.3
  • Presidency 4
  • Later elections 5
    • 2009 General election 5.1
    • 2014 General election 5.2
  • Family 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early life

President Soekarno, with his children Megawati and Guntur, while receiving Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru along with his daughter Indira Gandhi.

Megawati was born in Yogyakarta to Soekarno, who had declared Indonesia's independence from the Netherlands in 1945 and Fatmawati, one of his nine wives. Megawati was Soekarno's second child and first daughter. She grew up in her father's Merdeka Palace. She danced for her father's guests and developed a gardening hobby.[2] Megawati was 19 when her father relinquished power in 1966 and was succeeded by a government which eventually came to be led by President Suharto. Sukarno's family was pushed into the background by the new government and stayed out of politics.

Megawati attended Padjadjaran University in Bandung to study agriculture but dropped out in 1967 to be with her father following his fall. In 1970, the year her father died, Megawati went to the University of Indonesia to study psychology but dropped out after two years.[3] She is a practising Muslim but also follows traditional Javanese beliefs.


Sukarnoputri (meaning 'daughter of Sukarno') is a patronymic, not a family name; Javanese often do not have family names. She is often referred to as simply Megawati or Mega, derived from Sanskrit meaning 'cloud goddess'. In a speech to the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School, she mentioned that Biju Patnaik, former Chief minister of Odisha, India, named her at Sukarno's request.[4][5]

Political career

Member of the Legislative Branch

In 1986, Suharto gave the status of Proclamation Hero to Sukarno in a ceremony attended by Megawati. Suharto's acknowledgment enabled the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), a government-sanctioned party, to campaign on Sukarno nostalgia in the lead-up to the 1987 Legislative Elections. Up to that time, Megawati had seen herself as a housewife, but in 1987 she joined PDI and ran for a People's Representative Council (DPR) membership.[2] PDI accepted Megawati to boost their own image. Megawati quickly became popular, her status as Sukarno's daughter offsetting her lack of oratorical skills. Although PDI came last in the 1987 Legislative Elections, Megawati was elected to the DPR. Like all members of the DPR she also became a member of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Chair of PDI

1995 ABC news report on the political rise of Megawati Sukarnoputri

Megawati was not reelected, but continued as a PDI member. In December 1993, PDI held a National Congress. As was always the case when New Order opposition parties held their congresses, the Government actively interfered. As the Congress approached, three individuals contended for the Chair of PDI. The incumbent, Suryadi, had become critical of the Government. The second was Budi Harjono a Government-friendly figure whom the Government backed. The third was Megawati. Her candidacy received such overwhelming support that her election at the Congress became a formality.[6]

When the Congress assembled, the Government stalled and delayed attempts to hold the election.[6] The Congress faced a deadline when their permit to assemble would run out. As the hours ticked down to the end of the Congress, troops began gathering. With only two hours remaining, Megawati called a press conference, stating that because she enjoyed the support of a majority of PDI members, she was now the de facto Chair.[6] Despite her relative lack of political experience, she was popular in part for her status as Sukarno's daughter and because she was seen as free of corruption with admirable personal qualities. Under her leadership, PDI gained a large following among the urban poor and both urban and rural middle classes.

1996 ABC news report on President Suharto's retention of power and the decreased influence of Mrs Sukarnoputri.

The Government was outraged at its failure to prevent Megawati's rise. They never acknowledged Megawati although her self-appointment was ratified in 1994. In 1996, the Government convened a Special National Congress in Medan that reelected Suryadi as Chair. Megawati and her camp refused to acknowledge the results and PDI divided into pro-Megawati and anti-Megawati camps.

Suryadi began threatening to take back PDI's Headquarters in Jakarta. This threat came true during the morning of 27 July 1996.[7] Suryadi's supporters (reportedly with the Government's backing) attacked PDI Headquarters and faced resistance from Megawati supporters stationed there. In the ensuing fight, Megawati's supporters held on to the headquarters. A riot ensued, followed by a government crackdown. The Government later blamed the riots on the People's Democracy Party (PRD); they recognized Suryadi's faction as the official party and banned Megawati from competing in the 1997 Legislative Election.

Despite what seemed to be a political defeat, Megawati scored a moral victory and her popularity grew. When the time came for the 1997 Legislative Elections, Megawati and her supporters threw their support behind the United Development Party (PPP), the other approved opposition party.


In mid-1997, Indonesia began to be affected by the Asian Financial Crisis and showed severe economic distress. By late January 1998 the rupiah fell to nearly 15,000 against the dollar, compared to only 4,000 in early December. Combined with increasing public anger at pervasive corruption, this culminated in May 1998 with Suharto's resignation and the assumption of that office by Vice President B. J. Habibie. The restrictions on Megawati were removed and she began to consolidate her political position. In October 1998, her supporters held a National Congress whereby Megawati's PDI faction would now be known as the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). Megawati was elected Chair and was nominated as PDI-P's Presidential candidate.[8]

PDI-P, together with Abdurrahman Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB) and Amien Rais' National Mandate Party (PAN), became the leading reform forces. Despite their popularity, Megawati, Wahid and Rais adopted a moderate stance, preferring to wait until the 1999 Legislative Elections to begin major changes.[9] In November 1998, Megawati, together with Wahid, Rais and Hamengkubuwono X reiterated their commitment to reform through the Ciganjur Statement.

As the 1999 legislative elections approached, Megawati, Wahid and Amien considered forming a political coalition against President Habibie and Golkar. In May Alwi Shihab held a press conference at his house during which Megawati, Wahid and Amien were to announce that they would work together. At the last minute, Megawati chose not to attend, because she decided that she could not trust Amien.[10] In June the 1999 legislative elections were held. PDI-P came first with 33% of the votes.

With PDI-P's Legislative Election victory, Megawati's presidential prospects solidified. She was opposed by the United Development Party (PPP) who did not want a female President.[11] In preparation for the 1999 MPR General Session, PDI-P formed a loose coalition with PKB. As the MPR General Session approached, it seemed as if the Presidential election would be contested between Megawati and Habibie, but by late June Amien had drawn the Islamic parties into a coalition called the Central Axis.[10] The Presidential election became a three-way race when Amien floated the idea of nominating Wahid for President; but Wahid did not provide a clear response to the proposal.

1999 MPR General Session

Megawati's PDI-P and PKB coalition faced its first test when the MPR assembled to choose its Chair. Megawati threw her support behind Matori Abdul Djalil, the Chair of PKB. He was overwhelmingly defeated by Amien, who in addition to enjoying Central Axis support was backed by Golkar.[11] The Golkar and Central Axis coalition struck again when they secured Akbar Tanjung's election as Head of DPR. At this stage, people became wary that Megawati, who best represented reform, was going to be obstructed by the political process and that the status quo was going to be preserved. PDI-P supporters began to gather in Jakarta.

Habibie made a poorly received speech on political accountability that led him to withdraw. The Presidential election held on 20 October 1999 came down to Megawati and Wahid. Megawati took an early lead, but was overtaken and lost with 313 votes compared to Wahid's 373. Megawati's loss provoked her supporters to revolt.[11] Riots raged in Java and Bali. In the City of Solo, PDI-P masses attacked Amien's house.

The next day, the MPR assembled to elect the Vice President. PDI-P had considered nominating Megawati, but were concerned that the Central Axis and Golkar coalition would again thwart her. Instead, PKB nominated Megawati. She faced stiff competition from Hamzah Haz, Akbar Tanjung and General Wiranto.[11] Well aware of the riots, Akbar and Wiranto withdrew. Hamzah stayed in the race, but Megawati defeated him 396 to 284. In her inauguration speech, she called for calm.

Vice Presidency

Work as Vice President

As Vice President, Megawati had considerable authority by virtue of her commanding many seats in the DPR. Wahid delegated to her the problems in Ambon, although she was not successful.[12] By the time the MPR Annual Session assembled in August 2000, many considered Wahid to be ineffective as President or as an administrator. Wahid responded to this by issuing a Presidential Decree, giving Megawati day-to-day control of the Government.[12]

2000 PDI-P National Congress

The First PDI-P Congress was held in Semarang, Central Java in April 2000, at which Megawati was re-elected as Chair for a 2nd term.

Megawati consolidated her position within PDI-P by taking harsh measures to remove potential rivals.[13] During the election for the Chair, two other candidates emerged; Eros Djarot and Dimyati Hartono. They ran because they did not want Megawati to serve concurrently as both Chair and Vice President. Eros' nomination from the South Jakarta branch was voided by membership problems. Eros was not allowed to participate in the Congress. Disillusioned with what he perceived to be a cult of personality developing around Megawati, Eros left PDI-P. In July 2002, he formed the Freedom Bull National Party. Although Dimyati's candidacy was not opposed as harshly as Eros, he was removed as Head of PDI-P's Central Branch. He kept his position as a People's Representative Council (DPR) member, but retired in February 2002. In April 2002, Dimyati formed the Our Homeland of Indonesia Party (PITA).

Relationship with Wahid and rise to the Presidency

Megawati had an ambivalent relationship with Wahid. During the Cabinet reshuffle of August 2000 for example, Megawati was not present for the announcement of the new line-up.[14] At another occasion, when the political tide began to turn against Wahid, Megawati defended him and lashed out against critics.[15] In 2001, Megawati began to distance herself from Wahid as a Special Session of the MPR approached and her prospects of becoming President improved. Although she refused to make any specific comments, she showed signs of preparing herself, holding a meeting with party leaders a day before the Special Session was to start.


MPR Chairman Amien Rais congratulates Megawati on her appointment as President.

On 23 July 2001, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) removed Wahid from office and, on the same day, swore in Megawati as the new president.[16] She thus became the fifth woman to lead a country with majority Muslim population (after Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Tansu Çiller of Turkey and Khaleda Zia and Hasina Wajed of Bangladesh).

The rise of an icon of opposition against the Suharto regime to the presidency was initially widely welcomed, however it soon became apparent that her presidency was marked with indecisiveness, lack of clear ideological direction, and "a reputation for inaction on important policy issues".[17][18][19] The good side of slow progress of reforms and avoiding confrontations was that she stabilized the overall democratization process and relationship between legislative, executive, and military.[17]

She ran for reelection in the 2004 in the country's first direct presidential election, hoping to become the first woman elected in her own right as head of state in a Muslim nation. However, she was decisively defeated by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the second round, by 61 percent to 39 percent,[16] on 20 September 2004. She did not attend the new president's inauguration, and never had congratulated him.[20]

Later elections

2009 General election

On 11 September 2007 Megawati announced her candidacy in the Indonesian presidential election, 2009 at a PDI-P gathering. Soetardjo Soerjoguritno confirmed her willingness to be nominated as her party's presidential candidate.[21]

Megawati's 2009 race was overshadowed by her calls to change Indonesia's voter registration procedure, obliquely suggesting that Yudhoyono's supporters were trying to manipulate the vote.[22] Megawati and her running mate Prabowo Subianto came in second with 26.79% of the vote.

2014 General election

On 24. February 2012, Megawati distanced herself from polls[23][24] that placed her as a top contender for the Indonesian presidential election, 2014.[25] Megawati, still Chair of PDI-P, appealed to her party at a gathering in Yogyakarta to focus on PDI-P's current priorities. Nonetheless, a domain name appears to have been registered in her name.[26] On 27 December 2012 the daily edition of the Jakarta Post hinted at a possible collaboration in the 2014 general election between the families of Megawati and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and their political parties, her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and his Democratic Party respectively.[27]

For 2014 general election, Megawati's party and their coalition partners nominated Joko Widodo as their candidate for President. Widodo defeated his opponent Prabowo Subianto in a close election. Later, the relationship between Megawati and Widodo became strained as she pushed for Police Commissary General Budi Gunawan, for the post of the Indonesian Police Chief, despite him being investigated for corruption by the Indonesian Anti Corruption Agency (KPK). Budi Gunawan was Megawati's Adjutant during her tenure as Indonesian President.[28]


Megawati with husband Taufiq Kiemas and three children.

Megawati's first husband, First Lieutenant Surendro Supjarso, was killed in a plane crash in Irian Jaya in 1970. In 1972, she married Hassan Gamal Ahmad Hassan, an Egyptian diplomat. The marriage was annulled shortly thereafter.[3] She married Taufiq Kiemas, who died in June 2013.[29] Together she and Taufiq had three children, Mohammad Rizki Pramata, Mohammad Prananda and Puan Maharani. Puan was the child of Megawati's marriage to Taufiq.


  1. ^ In traditional Indonesian spelling, her name is written as Dyah Permata Megawati Setyawati Soekarnoputri.
  2. ^ a b Megawati Soekarnoputri, Mbak Pendiam itu Emas | Biografi Tokoh Indonesia
  3. ^ a b East & Thomas 2003, p. 233
  4. ^ Speech by Indian President R K Narayanan in honor of Megawati Sukarnoputri at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 May 2009)
  5. ^ Article on Biju Patnaik in The Economist
  6. ^ a b c Megawati Soekarnoputri, Pemimpin Berkepribadian Kuat | Biografi Tokoh Indonesia
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ a b c d
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Indonesia's Megawati in presidential comeback bid" at the Wayback Machine (archived 4 June 2011), Forbes, 11 September 2007.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^


Further reading

  • Wichelen, Sonja van (University of Amsterdam). "Contesting Megawati: The Mediation of Islam and Nation in Times of Political Transition." (Archive) Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 2006 (University of Westminster, London), Vol. 3(2): 41-59. ISSN 1744-6708 (Print); 1744-6716 (Online). p. 41-59.
  • Gerlach, Ricarda (2013): 'Mega' Expectations: Indonesia's Democratic Transition and First Female President. In: Derichs, Claudia/Mark R. Thompson (eds.): Dynasties and Female Political Leaders in Asia. Berlin et al.: LIT, p. 247-290.
  • Skard, Torild (2014) "Megawati" in Women of power - half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Bristol: Policy Press, ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0.

External links

  • "Most Powerful Women 2004 #8 Megawati Sukarnoputri" at the Wayback Machine (archived 13 August 2010). Forbes.
  • Karon, Tony. "The Princess Who Settled for the Presidency." TIME Magazine. Friday 27 July 2001.
  • Biography of Megawati Soekarnoputri at SekolahVirtual
Political offices
Preceded by
Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
Vice President of Indonesia
Succeeded by
Hamzah Haz
Preceded by
Abdurrahman Wahid
President of Indonesia
Succeeded by
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
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