Fri, 26 Aug 1994

Govt promises to stay out of PPP chairmanship race

JAKARTA (JP): The government yesterday pledged to stay out of the chairmanship race of the United Development Party (PPP), and will not block the nomination of any candidate.

"The government will keep its hands off the congress. No contenders will be blocked," Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Soesilo Soedarman told reporters after a monthly meeting with his subordinate ministers.

The government wishes to see the congress proceed smoothly, Soesilo said, adding that the controversy about the chairmanship in the run up to the PPP's congress was considered normal.

Tension has mounted between the various factions and leaders of the party in the run up to the congress, which will be launched in Jakarta on Sunday. The candidates, including incumbent chairman Ismail Hasan Metareum, have traded accusations as they jockey for position and support.

PPP is a fusion of four former Islamic parties -- Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muslimin Indonesia (MI), Sarekat Islam (SI) and Perti.

Ismail Hasan, who hails from MI, currently has the upper hand over the other candidates. His chief contender is Mathori Abdul Djalil, the party's secretary general who hails from NU.

The other candidates include Sri Bintang Pamungkas, Hamzah Haz, Yusuf Hasyim, Karmani, Cholil Badlawi, Hartono Mardjono, Husnie Thamrin, Yudo Paripurno and H.M. Dault.

The chairmanship race is also turning into a power struggle between the four factions of the party, in particular between NU and MI.

Democratic fashion

On a separate occasion, Mathori told the press yesterday the main thing for him is the congress and the election proceed in a democratic fashion.

He said that participants to the congress, who will elect the party's chairman, should look at the candidates' individual merits and not as representing certain factions.

"It will be a setback for the party if people stick to factional thinking," he said.

Mathori said he believed that the government is not favoring one candidate over another. "The government has bestowed its blessing on all the candidates."

He sees himself as being close to the government, the Armed Forces, the business community.

"It's not a problem for me if I am not elected and it is okay if the people select me," he said, adding that the party needs a popular leader who can accommodate the interests of the public.

Differences of opinion among party supporters on the question of their leaders would in the end lead to unity of ideas. He said that he was sure the congress would proceed smoothly.

Mathori also said that PPP needs "regeneration" and suggests that the congress select figures who are below 60 years old in the new line up of the central executive board.

Mathori has earlier claimed to have the support of many kyais, or Moslem scholars, from NU.

The kyais, under the leadership of KH Syansuri Badlawi, have not formally announced their candidate but have hinted that they favored Mathori over other NU figures, including Hamzah Haz. (par)