Wed, 10 Aug 1994

By Santi WE Soekanto

Fusion in PPP fails, no change imminent: Analysts

JAKARTA (JP): The constant factional bickerings within the United Development Party (PPP) prove that the 1973 merge of its four original Moslem groups has miserably failed, two analysts said.

Dr. Maswadi Rauf from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Indonesia and Syamsuddin Haris from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), have studied the development of the party which is scheduled to hold elections later this month.

Both believe that under the current political system, which allows only small leeway for the party, it is unlikely that it will be able to become more unified or grow any stronger.

The two other political groupings, the government backed Golkar and the populist Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), have challenged PPP recently.

The analysts added that the preoccupation of PPP leaders with fighting for their factional or individual interests, instead of struggling for the good of the party, will only lessen further people's sympathy for PPP.

Both expressed doubt that change is imminent, despite claims from several faction leaders that, given the opportunity to sit at the party's helm, they will improve PPP's performance.

"Not one of them is qualified enough or looks able to bring change," Syamsuddin told The Jakarta Post, referring to several people who have been reported to have the opportunity to lead PPP or expressed interests in doing so.

They are the incumbent chairman Ismail Hasan Metareum; Hamzah Haz (chairman of the PPP faction in the House of Representatives); Matori Abdul Djalil (PPP Secretary General); and Jusuf Hasjim (a senior NU politician and a member of NU law making board).

"Some people said that PPP can grow stronger if it gets new, stronger leaders," Maswadi said "but I'm afraid it's not going to be the case, considering the vulnerability of our political parties."

PPP can only grow to be strong enough "to attract supporters, but not too strong as to invite suspicion or become a threat" to the political constellation here, he said.


PPP, the second largest political party, is the result of a fusion of four Islamic parties in January 1973, namely the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muslimin Indonesia (MI), Syarikat Islam (SI) and PERTI. With over 35 million members, NU is by far the largest of the factions.

Internal conflict centers mainly on the two dominant factions, NU and MI, which are vying for the chairmanship. Ismail Hasan, who is seeking re-election and appears to have the support of the government, belongs to the MI fold.

NU, frustrated that the PPP leadership has always eluded them, decided in 1984 to abandon party politics altogether and concentrate their attention on the promotion of Islamic education.

However, with the PPP election approaching, many NU leaders who have remained active in the PPP have tried once again to muscle their way into the party's leadership.

"It's our turn now," K.H. Syamsuri Badlawi, a senior NU leader, said in June. "We promise we can improve PPP performance in the 1997 general elections."


Both Maswadi and Syamsuddin thought that the problem of factional bickering within the party cannot be easily avoided, nor will they disappear with the upcoming election of a new executive board.

Traditionally, the seats in the boards are allotted to the factions.

"Complete fusion only takes place in theory," Syamsuddin said. "The party will face the same bickerings unless they change the political format first."

"The party was designed in such a way as to accommodate various Moslem based forces, but to also coopt them that they couldn't grow strong enough to oppose the government," Syamsuddin said.

The limited space for movement keeps the political parties' hands full with internal problems to reduce their control over the executive branch of power, he said.

"There is no time to discuss (among members of political parties) about what the government's doing," he said.


The frictions among PPP factions may seem to contradict some people's observation that Ismail Hasan's leadership has had a calming effect on the party. However, both analysts agreed that the bickerings do not necessarily prove Ismail Hasan's inadequacy.

Even if Ismail Hasan was not leading the party now, the problem would still have persisted, Maswadi said.

"This is an issue of groups' interests," he said. "As long as NU members, for instance, put their leaders upon a pedestal, then the party will have to deal with the friction."

"That shows you how great our government is," Syamsuddin said.

Based on the "vulnerable position" of political parties, as well as the ties of traditions and culture within PPP, Maswadi believed that it would take many years before PPP can resolve its squabbling

"Perhaps we're going to need another 25 years before we can see a more mature PPP," Maswadi said, adding that Ismail Hasan has done the best he could under the existing conditions.

"Let's not use an idealistic yardstick to measure our political parties' performance," he said.

Syamsuddin agreed that Ismail Hasan's low profile management of the party had a calming effect, but still thought he failed to reach many of the party's crucial political targets.

Ismail Hasan failed, for instance, in molding the party's identity, Syamsuddin said, citing the contradictions between some members' wish to turn it into an "open" party which can accommodate any group, with those who claim it to be an "Islamic party".

Furthermore, it lacks clear political vision, Syamsuddin said. "We have not seen the party be responsive enough to issues of national interest, such as the loan scandal at Bapindo or certain government policies," he said.

Both analysts suggested that PPP leaders be more sensitive to the demands of the public which have become more critical, and facilitate changes in the society.

"They should make the most of the limited space that the party is already granted," Syamsuddin said.