Thu, 29 May 2003

Hasyim awaits decision on presidential candidacy

Muninggar Sri Saraswati and A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Hasyim Muzadi played down on Wednesday being nominated as a candidate for the presidency, saying he would only run for president if his candidacy received the full support of both the Muslim organization and the National Awakening Party.

Hasyim said his nomination as a presidential candidate by clerics who claimed to represent 30 provincial chapters of the NU on Tuesday was part of an encouraging public discourse.

The clerics suggested that PKB, which was founded by NU clerics in 1998, support Hasyim's bid for the presidency. The motion goes against the wishes of PKB top brass, who intend to nominate former president Abdurrahman Wahid, who is Hasyim's predecessor at the NU.

"The final decision will rest with the PKB and the executive board of the NU," Muzadi said on the sidelines of the PKB executive meeting in Santika Hotel in Central Jakarta.

PKB is slated to hold a series of executive meetings to select its presidential candidate. Meetings after this first meeting, which is still under way, will be held in August, December and January next year.

The names of possible candidates are unlikely to be disclosed at the conclusion of the current meeting, which is expected to determine the criteria and the mechanism to select the presidential aspirants of the party.

Sources say PKB's presidential candidate will be announced in December this year or January next year.

Indonesia will hold its first direct presidential election in June and the second round, if no one wins a simple majority, in August.

Muzadi said that even if the PKB named him its presidential candidate, he would seek NU approval before contesting the election.

"This is the ethics of leadership. I will not abandon the NU executive board and make a decision on my own, especially for short-term interests, in this case presidential candidacy," he said.

Under Hasyim, the NU has adopted a strict ruling that bans its executives from being affiliated to political parties.

The amended Constitution says only political parties have the right to pick presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, Abdurrahman, who is PKB's chief patron, met with influential figures within the NU, known as kyai khos, in the wee hours of Wednesday.

There was no official statement on the substance of the closed-door meeting, but the influential figures suggested that the PKB and the NU strengthen ties.

Both parties were also urged to intensify communication between them, in order to ease any tension resulting from presidency issues.

In a separate development, the South Jakarta District Court ruled on Wednesday that the dismissal of Matori Abdul Jalil as PKB chairman in 2001 was unlawful.

Matori was fired by PKB chief patron Abdurrahman after the former attended the Special Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in 2001, which led to Abdurrahman's removal as president.

PKB members loyal to Abdurrahman elected Alwi Shihab as Matori's replacement. Matori in turn established a rival wing of the PKB.

"PKB-led by the plaintiff (Matori) is legitimate," presiding Judge Tusani Djafri told the hearing.

The verdict also stated that Matori's PKB could lawfully use the party's logo, name and anthem.

Tusani said that Matori's presence in the MPR's Special Session was legal and acceptable, due to his position as a deputy speaker of the MPR, and not as a representative of the PKB.

The impact of the decision on Alwi's PKB remains unknown, as the court did not issue a ruling on the subject.