The Indonesian president has chosen the chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization to be her running mate in the presidential elections. The choice could bring her a substantial number of votes, but she still has much ground to cover to catch her challengers.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri announced she has chosen Hasyim Muzadi as her running mate for presidential elections. Mr. Muzadi is the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, by some measures the world's largest Muslim organization, with 40 million members.
In a speech, Mrs. Megawati says she hopes her choice of a running mate meets the hopes of the Indonesian people.
Mrs. Megawati's re-election campaign is faltering, after her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle received a battering in general elections last month. The party won only 19 percent of the votes, down from 33 percent in the last elections, held in 1999.
Indonesia is due to hold its first ever direct presidential elections on July 5, and the contest will go to a second round in September, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.
Opinion polls have shown Mrs. Megawati trailing her former security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the race. Mr. Yudhoyono has chosen a former welfare minister, Yusuf Kalla, as his running mate. Mr. Kalla is a businessman from the island of Sulawesi, who also has strong Islamic credentials.
On the surface, the combination of the nationalist Mrs. Megawati and the Islamic Mr. Muzadi should have broad appeal, but analysts see a number of weaknesses. They say Mr. Muzadi's ability to persuade members of Nahdlatul Ulama to vote for him is open to question, and point out that both he and Mrs. Megawati come from Indonesia's most populous island, Java, and have limited appeal to people from other islands.
The third main challenger for the presidency, former armed forces chief General Wiranto, is also expected to choose a running mate with connections to the religious establishment.
The candidates have not laid out detailed plans for the future of the country. Most observers say the contest will be personality driven, which might further disadvantage Mrs. Megawati, who is not a strong public performer.