Thu, 24 Jul 2003

Cak Nur picks up registration form amid pullout report

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Noted scholar Nurcholish Madjid picked up the registration form from Golkar on Wednesday amid reports that he was pulling out of the ongoing convention to choose the party's poll bearer in the 2004 elections.

"I have given the authority to Sudirman Said to take the form," Nurcholish, popularly known as Cak Nur, told reporters on Wednesday, referring to his campaign assistant.

Despite the fact that he had taken the form, Cak Nur evaded questions as to whether or not he would contest the post.

"(I) can still choose whether or not to submit the form," said Cak Nur.

Press reports said earlier that Cak Nur was seriously considering backing out as Golkar's presidential candidate.

Asked whether his wait-and-see stance was related to the possible participation of Akbar Tandjung, who chairs the party, in the convention, Cak Nur answered, "sort of."

He repeatedly said that "the management of a party is not supposed to join the convention".

Golkar decided to conduct the convention in a bid to select its sole presidential candidate to compete in the country's first direct presidential election in June 2004. The convention, which will run in stages before naming the sole candidate, requires all candidates to take the registration forms by August 7.

Several groups in Golkar have voiced support for Akbar, a graft convict, to join the convention. Golkar's convention regulation allows party executives to participate as candidates.

Akbar himself has not declared whether he will join the convention or not, pending the Supreme Court's verdict on his graft case. He has been convicted to three years in prison.

Among other prospective candidates, political observers say Akbar has the biggest chance of winning the convention if he decides to join as he enjoys strong support within the party.

J. Kristiadi from the CSIS and Eep Syaifullah Fatah of the University of Indonesia suggested that Cak Nur withdraw, saying Golkar staged the convention in a bid to achieve its political goals, Antara reported.

"With or without Cak Nur, Akbar has every chance of winning the convention because of the support within the Golkar Party," Eep said.

As an independent candidate, Cak Nur must compete with 12 other prospective figures who have been nominated by national organizations to take part in the convention.

Among them are Akbar, former military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, People Consultative Assembly deputy chairman Ginandjar Kartasasmita, Minister of Transportation Agum Gumelar, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Yusuf Kalla, Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, media tycoon Surya Paloh, former chief of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto and businessman Aburizal Bakri.