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Yudhoyono prays for party unity in Mecca
Publication Date : 07-02-2013
For Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s SMS from Mecca yesterday was a big relief. However, for Anas’ opponents, their boss’ appeal to pray for the party’s unity was likely a big disappointment.
Both sides, however, refrained from openly expressing their feelings on the president’s call. The enemies of Anas, who has been implicated in the Hambalang sports complex corruption scandal, want to oust him from the party because the general elections are only a year ahead. Many of them want to prevent Anas from putting only his loyal supporters on the list of legislative candidates.
Just before embarking to Cairo to attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit on Wednesday, the president and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono performed the umroh minor haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. From a holy shrine, Yudhoyono managed to send a text message to leaders of his Democratic Party, who had been anxiously waiting for his final say on the ongoing turmoil within the ruling party.
The message contained calls from Yudhoyono, who wrote in his capacity as the head of the party’s general assembly, for all party members nationwide to pray to God amid mounting pressures to unseat Anas.
“I am writing right before the Kaaba at the Masjidil Haram in Mecca. During my visit in this holy land, I have been asking God for help and assistance so that our beloved party can be immediately released from the difficult tests we have been facing these days,” Yudhoyono said in the text message, according to a copy The Jakarta Post obtained from activist-turned-Democratic-Party executive Rachland Nashidik yesterday.
“I hope you follow my lead in praying to God so that He can immediately find a solution that is proper, wise and dignified,” Yudhoyono went on.
According to the message’s header, Yudhoyono directed the message to four recipients, namely “members of general assembly”, “honourary council secretary”, “party secretary-general” and “head of Democratic Party legislative faction”.
The absence of Anas as party chairman in the “to” field in Yudhoyono’s message led to speculation that the president no longer considered Anas a significant figure.
Claiming to also have received the message from Yudhoyono, Anas rejected the suggestion that it could be seen as friction between his supporters and Yudhoyono’s loyalists within the party.
“The substance of the message is good, isn’t it? I don’t know why ‘party chairman’ was excluded, but don’t speculate too much,” Anas told the Post, also via a text message.
Saan Mustopa, the deputy-secretary-general of the party and one of Anas’ close aides, shared the same sentiment, saying that “party chairman” had been excluded because Anas was also an ex officio member of the general assembly.
Yudhoyono’s message was delivered to the cell phones of uneasy party members who had expected the president would be more decisive in addressing the party’s problems, which centre on the party’s sustainability amid a spike in negative popularity trends.
Party senior members, led by those in Yudhoyono’s Cabinet such as Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik and Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsudin, asked the president to “take over leadership” and take immediate action to help the party regain public support.
They blamed the party’s plunging popularity on corruption scandals implicating Anas that had tainted the party’s image.
In Jeddah, on Tuesday, Yudhoyono responded by saying that he was considering taking over leadership of the party and would announce his decision immediately after completing the umroh (pilgrimage).