Mon, 22 Dec 2003

13 parties mull forging coalition

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A group of 13 political parties, mostly Muslim-based, have agreed to form a coalition immediately after the legislative election on April 5 next year, one party leader confirmed.

However, political analyst Daniel Sparringa of Airlangga University in Surabaya expressed skepticism about such a coalition, saying the claim was merely a political ploy by the smaller parties to get attention.

Reform Star Party (PBR) chairman Zainuddin M.Z. said on Saturday that the coalition was established in a bid to prepare for the first direct presidential election scheduled for July 5, which requires parties to win at least 5 percent of the votes in order to field a candidate.

The 13 parties -- there are 24 eligible to run next year -- included the New Indonesia Alliance Party (PIB), the Freedom Bull National Party (PNBK), the Marhaenism Indonesian National Party (PNI Marhaenisme), the Pioneer Party (PP), the National Democracy Unity Party (PDK), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP) and PBR.

PPP and PAN were involved in the 1999 election and gained 58 and 34 House of Representative seats respectively. All the other parties are newcomers.

Zainuddin said the agreement was reached during a post-Idul Fitri gathering a few days ago in Jakarta, in which the leaders of those 13 parties were all present.

He, however, acknowledged that the coalition would unavoidably confront the two largest parties, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Golkar Party, which represent the nationalist forces.

PDI Perjuangan and Golkar secured 153 and 120 seats respectively of the 500 House seats in the 1999 election.

Separately, PPP chairman and the nation's Vice President Hamzah Haz said that a political coalition must not be aimed at blocking the candidacy of certain leaders.

"The most important thing in a coalition is to create similar visions, not to block certain leaders," he said after opening the 1st national meeting of the Islamic Defender's Front (FPI) here on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Daniel expressed doubt that such a coalition would really become a real alliance.

According to him, the claim by Zainuddin and his small party was just political banter.

"That is a ploy by the small parties to show their existence. It is simply political rhetoric," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Daniel said any discussions about a coalition would only be meaningful after the April 5 election. "Because each party will have a real idea of its political strength and that of its partners," he said.

A poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) found that Muslim voters in Indonesia tend to favor moderate, pluralistic and democratic parties rather than those parties fighting for sharia law or an Islamic state.

Another survey found that the majority of voters would not take ideology into consideration when they choose their preferred political parties or presidential candidate next year.

The survey, conducted by Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicated (SSS), found that candidates with a "nationalist" orientation and "Islamic" candidates stood an equal chance of winning.