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INDONESIA POLLS: Jokowi seen getting Islamic edge

Publication Date : 04-05-2014


Indonesia's presidential hopeful Joko “Jokowi” Widodo received a major boost in his efforts to woo Muslim voters as he moved closer to forming an alliance with the National Awakening Party (PKB), currently the country’s largest Islamic-based party.

Senior PKB officials confirmed the party’s decision to collaborate with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), saying it was “just a matter of time” before the parties made the partnership official.

The Jakarta governor and PDI-P presidential nominee has been touring Central Java and East Java to court revered clerics and prominent members of the country’s two largest Muslim organizations, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

On Saturday, PKB executives were seen accompanying Jokowi during his visits to NU strongholds. The NU, which has about 40 million members, is the country’s largest Muslim organisation.

Marwan Jafar, leader of the PKB faction at the House of Representatives said he and deputy secretary-general Fathan Subchi had been specifically appointed by party chairman Muhaimin Iskandar to join Jokowi’s entourage. “The party officially sent me to accompany Jokowi. My presence here can be understood as PKB support for the PDI-P,” Marwan said.

PDI-P deputy secretary-general Ahmad Basarah said party leaders would meet later to seal the coalition. “We will find the best time for Pak Muhaimin to meet Ibu Mega for the official declaration,” Basarah said, referring to PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The PKB is the second party to express support for Jokowi’s presidential bid after the NasDem Party. Based on the quick count results, the party gained about 9 percent of the popular vote in the April 9 legislative election, the largest support garnered by any Islamic-based party.

The PKB has been successful in securing the support of NU members who were also targeted by the United Development Party (PPP), which only gained 6 percent of the vote and which is now mulling a coalition with the Gerindra Party.

Jokowi and his entourage departed from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta on Saturday morning to visit Ahmad Syafii Maarif, the former chairman of the country’s second-largest Islamic organisation, Muhammadiyah, at Syafii’s home in Yogyakarta.

During the 40-minute visit, Jokowi exchanged insights as well as jokes with the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his efforts to promote pluralism before departing to Surabaya, East Java, to meet with Khofifah Indar Parawansa, a PKB politician and leader of the women’s branch of the NU.

Syafii said he personally supported Jokowi, while Khofifah went further by joining Jokowi’s campaign as his spokeswoman.

The decision to appoint Khofifah as Jokowi’s spokeswoman was revealed by Jokowi in front of dozens of members of the NU’s women’s branch who gathered at Khofifah’s house. “I met her [Khofifah] last week to ask her to help me as an old friend. She agreed to do so the next day. So now she is a spokesperson for Jokowi,” Jokowi said.

Before an enthusiastic audience, Jokowi emphasized his commitment to refusing to indulge in transactional politics with any individuals or political parties, saying that although it was difficult, such a nonconformist approach had attracted the NasDem Party as well as the PKB to work together with the PDI-P.

“We didn’t talk about vice-presidential candidates or ministerial positions to persuade the NasDems or PKB to join us [in coalition]. I think it is truly because we are in agreement with each other,” Jokowi said.

“We must avoid such elitist transactional politics if we really aim to solve the problems that this country is facing. And I am truly grateful to all of the ladies here”.

While on tour, Jokowi also visited Islamic boarding schools in East Java, including Pacul Gowang, which is led by Anwar Mansur, who is also known as a member of the PKB’s board of advisers and the Tebuireng.

Jokowi also met with senior Golkar politician and former vice president Jusuf Kalla and Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Abraham Samad, at Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport and Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport, respectively.

While Kalla and Samad have been touted as potential candidates to pair with Jokowi in the election; both have declined to comment on the matter.


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