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Two candidates face off in war of words

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Indonesia: Presidential Elections 2009:
Two candidates face off in war of words

With the elections drawing near, political tension is already heating up with Golkar Party leader Jusuf Kalla and People's Conscience Party (Hanura) head Wiranto being embroiled in a dispute that could see them in court over libel, reported a local newpaper.

Wiranto, with a team of about 100 lawyers, filed a legal complaint against Kalla for his statement on freeloaders within Golkar, a remark Wiranto deemed offensive, said the Jakarta Post.

"I never mentioned any names. But one thing's for sure: I was not referring to Wiranto," Vice President Kalla told reporters on Friday.

At last month's Golkar congress, Kalla insisted the party would not hold a national convention to select its presidential candidate, for fear of freeloaders taking advantage of it.

"Candidates nominated by other parties could join the convention just to reap support from Golkar," he said Friday.

Golkar selected its presidential candidate for the 2004 election through a convention in August 2003, won by Wiranto after beating then party chairman Akbar Tandjung. Kalla had earlier withdrawn from the convention to team up with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Wiranto chose Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) figure Solahuddin Wahid as his running mate. The pair was eliminated in the first round of the election.

Under the New Order regime, the military was one of Golkar's main pillars of support, alongside the civil servant corps.

"Because Wiranto had just retired from the military at the time, he represented an independent candidate," Kalla recounted.

Kalla said his statement served as a reminder to Golkar of how easily outsiders could gate-crash the convention.

Neither Kalla nor Wiranto have yet officially declared their bids for the presidency, saying they are awaiting the outcome of the legislative election in April 2009.

The presidential election is slated to take place in July 2009.

Several surveys project the upcoming presidential election as a two-horse race between incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Wiranto recently announced plans to join forces with other presidential candidates and political parties in filing a judicial review of the presidential election law, which they say restricts citizens' constitutional right to contest the presidency.

Wiranto and other former generals turned presidential aspirants, including Prabowo Subianto and Sutiyoso, face another serious hurdle: a House of Representatives' special committee on missing persons will summon them in connection with the abduction of anti-government student activists back in 1998.

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