MEGAWATI SUKARNOPUTRI Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


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Megawati Sukarnoputri (1947- ), president of Indonesia (2001- ) and leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who as vice president (1999-2001) replaced deposed president Abdurrahman Wahid.


Born in Yogyakarta, Megawati is the second child and eldest daughter of Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno. He led Indonesia’s independence from Dutch colonial rule after World War II (1939-1945) and served as the country’s first president for two decades. Her full given name is Dyah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri, but she commonly uses only one name, Megawati, following Indonesian custom. The name Megawati roughly translates as "woman of the clouds," and Sukarnoputri means "daughter of Sukarno."


Megawati and her three younger siblings grew up in the presidential palace in the care of their father; their mother, Fatmawati, separated from Sukarno in 1954. After graduating high school Megawati began her university studies at the Bandung Institute of Technology. Before earning a degree, however, Megawati discontinued her studies during the political upheaval that resulted in her father’s replacement by General Suharto in 1968. Megawati then married Surindro Supjarso, an air force lieutenant, and went to live with him in Madiun. Sukarno died in June 1970. Then in January 1971 Surindro died in a plane crash.


Although the Suharto regime stifled political dissent, it permitted two opposition parties to operate on a limited basis in addition to the government party, Golkar. One of these, the Democratic Party of Indonesia (PDI), was the result of a government-forced merger of the pro-Sukarno Indonesian National Party (PNI) and several other parties in 1973. (That year, Megawati married Taufiq Kiemas, who had been an activist in the PNI’s university student front.) For the 1987 elections the PDI sought the participation of the Sukarno family in the hope of gaining more popular support, as many Indonesians, disaffected by the Suharto regime, revered Sukarno as the country’s founder. Megawati agreed to join the party, which increased its share of the national vote in both the 1987 and 1992 elections.


These electoral gains posed a potential threat to the Suharto regime, which then attempted to install a government-preferred candidate as PDI leader. However, some party members persuaded Megawati to make a leadership bid, in the hope that her popular support would help overcome these attempts to control the party. In December 1993 Megawati was elected chairperson of the PDI.