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DATE=10/7/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIAN POLITICS (L-O) NUMBER=2-254756 BYLINE=JOE COCHRANE DATELINE=JAKARTA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A leading Indonesian opposition party has withdrawn its support for presidential front-runner Megawati Sukarnoputri. As Joe Cochrane reports from Jakarta, the defection is a serious blow to Ms. Megawati's chances in the October 20th election. Text: National Awakening Party spokesman Alwi Shihab says party leader Abdurrahman Wahid is bowing to the wishes of a group of Muslim-based parties and is running for president. Mr.Shihab says Mr. Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, is the most appropriate candidate among the rival political factions in the People's Consultative Assembly, the nation's highest legislative body. He says the National Awakening Party - known as P-K-B -- will join seven Muslim-based parties in supporting Gus Dur, when the Assembly chooses the new president on October 20th. But Megawati Sukarnotputri's opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle -- the P-D-I-P -- is still hopeful she will get the P-K-B's support. Ms. Megawati's party won 34-percent of the vote, the largest bloc in June's landmark national election, An advisor to Ms.Megawati, Kwik Kian Gie, says the P- K-B is sending conflicting signals as the election approaches. But he says his party will nonetheless begin lobbying other parties to support Ms. Megawati's presidential bid. Several members of the People's Consultative Assembly have said there is now a three-way race between Ms. Megawati, Gus Dur, and President B-J Habibie. Ms. Megawati was expected to have little opposition after winning the most votes in the June seventh ballot. But the P-D-I-P has been unable or unwilling to form coalitions with other parties within the People's Consultative Assembly to ensure her victory. Meanwhile, President Habibie's Golkar party has teamed up with a Muslim-based group, called the "Central Axis", to deny the P-D-I-P the chairmanship of the Assembly and the Speakership of Parliament. The 700-member Assembly consists of Parliament, 38 un- elected representatives of the military, and 200 appointees from regional and special interest groups. It remains unknown whether Ms. Megawati, the daughter of former President Sukarno, can garner enough support among these competing interests to become Indonesia's first female president. (SIGNED) NEB/JC/FC/RAE 07-Oct-1999 07:46 AM EDT (07-Oct-1999 1146 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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