Wed, 30 Apr 2003

Cak Nur's bid for presidency hailed

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A leading political analyst and a politician have hailed noted Muslim intellectual Nurcholish Madjid's announcement that he will contest the 2004 presidential election, and his call for other independent figures to follow suit.

Syamsuddin Haris of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Amien Rais said the announcement would give an important lesson to the nation in the future.

"We can't elect a president randomly without knowing their backgrounds and track records. We must elect somebody who is ready to be a president to lead the nation," Syamsuddin told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Nurcholish, popularly known as Cak Nur, said Monday that he was ready to lead the nation if political parties asked him to contest the election. He also outlined his policies.

The amended 1945 Constitution states that presidential and vice presidential candidates are nominated by political parties or by a coalition of parties.

Syamsuddin criticized several figures who appeared reluctant to be nominated for the presidency but actually had strong ambitions to assume the country's number one position.

He said other public figures, including Nahdlatul Ulama leader Hasyim Muzadi and former chief of the Indonesian Military Wiranto, would soon announce they were running for president.

It is hoped the landmark direct presidential election will build a more democratic and legitimate government.

A number of parties such as Golkar and the National Awakening Party (PKB) have reportedly expressed interest in naming Cak Nur as their presidential candidate.

Amien, also chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said he was preparing to launch his bid.

"I have called on everyone to join a more democratic presidential race without any legal limitations," he was quoted by Antara as saying.

Amien said Nurcholish's bid would enliven the election race.

He said that the more candidates there were, the merrier the competition, and the better it was for voters who would have more choice, rather than just two or three competing pairs.