Sukarnoputri means "daughter of Sukarno" and it is not a family name: Javanese often do not have family names. She is simply referred to as 'Megawati' (or 'Mega') which is derived from Sanskrit meghavatī = "she who has a cloud", i.e. a raincloud, as it was raining when she was born. Biju Patnaik, an eminent Indian leader named her on the request of Sukarno.
After serving as Vice-President under 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 in the second round.
In 2004, she was ranked number 8 on Forbes Magazine's list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women.
Megawati was born in Yogyakarta on 23 January 1947 to President Sukarno, who had declared Indonesia's independence from the Netherlands in 1945 and Fatmawati, one of Sukarno's nine wives. Megawati was Sukarno's second child and first daughter. As a child, Megawati grew up in luxury in her father's Merdeka Palace. She would dance in front of her father's guests and developed a hobby for gardening.
Megawati went to Padjadjaran University in Bandung to study agriculture, but dropped out in 1967 to be with her father following his fall from power . Megawati was 19 when her father was overthrown and succeeded by a military government led by Suharto. Sukarno's family was ignored by the new government provided they stayed out of politics.
In 1970, the year her father died, Megawati went to the University of Indonesia to study psychology but dropped out due to Suharto regime intervention after two years. Even her warmest admirers would not claim that Megawati is an intellectual, and she has little knowledge of the world outside Indonesia. She is a pious Muslim but also follows traditional Javanese beliefs and has great faith in astrology.
Megawati's first husband, First Lieutenant Surindo Supjarso, was killed in a plane crash in Irian Jaya in 1970. In 1972, she married Hassan Gamal Ahmad Hasan, an Egyptian diplomat. The marriage was annulled shortly after. She married Taufiq Kiemas, her present husband, in 1973. They have three children, M. Rizki Pramata, M. Pranada Prabowo and Puan Maharani, now in their 30s.
Sensing this, the Government began to maneuver to ensure that Megawati was not elected. When the Congress assembled, the Government began to stall and all attempts to hold the Chairperson election was delayed . A situation then developed whereby if PDI did not elect a Chairperson by the end of the Congress, the Congress would not be allowed to continue because their permit to assemble would run out. As the hours ticked down to the end of the Congress, troops began gathering at the site of the Congress. Finally with two hours before the permit to assemble ran out, Megawati called a press conference. Megawati stated at the press conference, that because she enjoyed the support of a majority of PDI members, she was now the de facto Chairperson of PDI . Despite her relative lack of political experience, she was popular in part for her status as the daughter of Sukarno, but also because she was seen as free of corruption and having admirable personal qualities. Under her leadership, PDI gained a large following among the urban poor and both urban and rural middle classes.
On the other hand the Government was outraged that they failed in their attempt to prevent Megawati from winning the Chairpersonship of PDI. They never acknowledged Megawati although Megawati's self-appointment to the Chairpersonship had been ratified in 1994 by PDI. Finally in 1996, the Government managed to convene a Special National Congress in Medan. This Congress, attended by anti-Megawati figures re-elected Suryadi to the Chairpersonship of PDI. Megawati and her camp refused to acknowledge the results of the Government-backed congress and a stituation of dualism developed whereby PDI was divided into a pro-Megawati and anti-Megawati camp.
Suryadi began threatening to take back PDI's Headquarters in Jakarta. This threat came true during the morning of 27th July 1996 . That morning, Suryadi's supporters (reportedly with the Government's backing) attacked the PDI Headquarters and faced resistance from Megawati supporters who had been stationed there ever since the National Congress in Medan. In the ensuing fight, Megawati's supporters managed to hold on to the headquarters. A riot then ensued, followed by a crackdown by the Government. The Government would later blame the riots on the People's Democracy Party (PRD), they would recognize Suryadi's PDI as the official PDI and would also ban 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 political party that the Government had allowed to exist.
Megawati's PDI-P, together with Abdurrahman Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB) and Amien Rais' National Mandate Party (PAN), became the leading forces of the Reform movement. Despite their popularity, Megawati, Wahid, and Rais adopted a moderate stance; preferring to wait until the 1999 Legislative Elections to begin taking power . 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, there was hope that Megawati, Wahid, and Amien would form a political coalition against President Habibie and Golkar. In May 1999, this hope came close to being a reality when Alwi Shihab held a press conference at his house during which Megawati, Wahid, and Amien would announce that they would work together. At the last minute, Megawati chose not to attend because she decided that she could not trust Amien . In June 1999, the 1999 Legislative Elections were held. PDI-P was undoubtedly the most popular political party and it came first with 33% of the votes.
With PDI-P's Legislative Election victory, the prospects of Megawati becoming President became more real. This prospect was detested by the United Development Party (PPP) who did not want Indonesia to have a female President . In preparation for the 1999 MPR General Session, PDI-P developed a loose coalition with PKB. As the MPR General Session approached, it seemed as if the Presidential Election was going to be contested by Megawati and Habibie but by late June, Amien had managed to draw the Islamic Parties together in a coalition called the Central Axis. The Presidential Election also became a three way race when Amien began throwing the idea of nominating Wahid for President; but Wahid did not provide a clear response to this.
With the rejection of Habibie's accountability speech and Habibie's withdrawal from the Presidential race, the Presidential Election to be held on 20th 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 lost fuelled her supporters to begin rioting . Riots raged in Java and Bali. In the City of Solo, PDI-P masses managed to attack Amien's house.
The next day, the MPR assembled to elect the Vice President. PDI-P had considered to nominate Megawati as Vice President, but was concerned that the Central Axis and Golkar coalition would once again thwart her in that political venture. Finally, PKB took the initiative and nominated Megawati as a Vice Presidential candidate. She faced stiff competition in the form of Hamzah Haz, Akbar Tanjung, and General Wiranto participating in the race as well. Well aware of the riots that had happened after Megawati's Presidential Election defeat, Akbar and Wiranto withdrew from the Vice Presidential race. Hamzah on the other hand insisted to compete against Megawati. Finally, Megawati defeated Hamzah with 396 votes to 284 to become Vice President. In her inauguration speech, she called for her supporters to calm down.
The Congress was noted as one where Megawati consolidated her position within PDI-P by taking harsh measures to remove potential rivals . During the election for the Chairperson, two other candidates emerged in the form of Eros Djarot and Dimyati Hartono. Both Eros and Dimyati ran for the Chairpersonship because they did not want Megawati to hold the PDI-P Chairpersonship while concurrently being Vice President. For Eros, when finally received his nomination from the South Jakarta branch, membership problems arose and made his nomination void. Eros was then not allowed to go and 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 would form the Freedom Bull National Party. For Dimyati, although his candidacy was not opposed as harshly as Eros', he was removed from his position 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).
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 Cabinet line-up . At another occasion, when the political tide began to rise up against Wahid, Megawati defended her President and lashed out against critics of the Government . In 2001 however, Megawati began to distance herself from Wahid as a Special Session of the MPR approached and the prospects of her becoming President began to get better. Although she refused to make any specific comments, she showed the signs of preparing herself to be President such as holding a meeting with party leaders a day before the Special Session was due to start.
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