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Calls for Islamic alliance in Indonesia get lukewarm response

Publication Date : 19-04-2014


A coalition claiming to represent Indonesia’s Islamic mass organisations has called on Islamic-based political parties to immediately form an alliance and endorse their own candidate for the upcoming presidential election in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The request emerged during the coalition’s closed-door gathering with leaders of Islamic-based political parties on Tuesday night in Central Jakarta, a day before the United Development Party (PPP) announced its support for the presidential bid of the Gerindra Party’s Prabowo Subianto.

Muslim scholar Taufan Maulamin, one of the event organisers, said the coalition was expecting Islamic-based political parties to collectively endorse a presidential contender who was able to fully represent the interests of Muslims in the country. “It is hurtful to learn that Islam has been misunderstood as [the representation of] Arab [culture]. There’s clearly an Islamophobic attitude in our politics as well, which has triggered Muslims in the country to move, unite and endorse a coalition of Islamic parties [for presidential election],” he told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the gathering.

Islamic Peoples Forum (FUI) secretary-general Muhammad Gatot Saptono, popularly known as Muhammad Al-Khaththath, who attended the gathering, said Islamic-based political parties must endorse a presidential candidate who “is close to Muslims”.

“We hope all five [Islamic-based] parties, or at least four, create an alliance and endorse their own [presidential] candidate,” said Gatot, who ran as a legislative candidate representing the Crescent Star Party (PBB) in the April 9 legislative election.

Many pre-election surveys suggested that Islamic-based parties would meet a popularity decline in the recent legislative election, but quick counts have thus far suggested otherwise.

The majority of quick counts found that the National Awakening Party (PKB), which has heavily relied on the support of members of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s biggest Muslim organisation, garnered at least 9 per cent of the vote, followed by the National Mandate Party (PAN) with around 7 percent, the PPP with more than 6 percent and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) with 5 per cent.

The PBB, meanwhile, was the most underperforming Islamic-based party, garnering around 1.5 per cent of the vote, far below the legislative threshold of 3.5 per cent. In total, the five political parties garnered around 30 percent of the vote, more than enough to collectively endorse a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.

 Among the politicians attending the gathering were former Muhammadiyah chairman and PAN cofounder Amien Rais and politician and Administrative Reforms Minister Azwar Abubakar; PKS chairman Anis Matta and lawmakers Fahri Hamzah, Hidayat Nur Wahid and Ahmad Zainuddin; PKB lawmaker and treasurer Bahruddin Nashori; and PPP politician and former Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) chief of staff Maj. Gen. (ret) Kivlan Zen.

Amien, who initiated a coalition of Islamic parties behind the successful presidential bid of NU cleric Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, in 1999, however, doubted that a similar coalition would prevail and instead suggested Islamic parties to form a larger alliance with their nationalist counterparts. “It is impossible for Islamic parties to handle the burden [in the government] alone. The nationalist parties must also see the same way since Islamic parties represent 30 per cent [of voters],” Amien said.

PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar said the idea of forming an alliance of Islamic parties was interesting but also unrealistic. “Every party has its own presidential candidate,” he said.

Anis, meanwhile, considered Thursday’s gathering “preliminary talks” and ensured that the PKS would discuss the coalition’s request in the party’s internal meeting.


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