Mon, 22 May 2000

Hidayat elected new Justice Party chief

JAKARTA (JP): Hidayat Nurwahid was elected the new chairman of the Justice Party on Sunday, replacing Minister of Forestry and Plantations Nur Mahmudi Ismail.

Hidayat, a lecturer in the postgraduate program at the state- run Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic Institute, defeated Anis Matta and Irwan Prayitno at the end of the Islamic-based party's congress.

Anis, who was second in the vote, retained the post of party secretary-general.

Hidayat said he hoped the party would be allowed to contest the 2004 General Election despite the fact that its vote tally in last year's election was below the electoral threshold for the elections.

The party was only able to place seven legislators in the House of Representatives, three short of the requirement.

"Our party has chapters in all 27 provinces and branches abroad. It should be considered (for) the next elections" he said on the sidelines of the congress held in Depok, West Java.

He said the party could change its name or merge with other parties if the General Elections Commission maintained the 2 percent electoral threshold.

The party secured 1.6 percent of votes in last year's elections. The party and the National Mandate Party (PAN) make up the reform faction in the House.

Nur Mahmudi Ismail resigned earlier this month as the party's chairman, saying he wanted to concentrate more on his duties as minister.

The minister, who is also expert staff at the Assessment and Application of Technology Agency (BPPT), added that he resigned from the party's executive board because his unpaid leave from the state agency was finished.

The three-day party gathering earlier elected Abdullah Ahmad as head of the party's legislative body on Friday. The body, which consists of 40 members, then chose Salim Segaf al-Djufri as the party's law-making body chairman.

Party officials said that apart from representatives from all provinces, the congress was also attended by party representatives abroad such as in Australia, the United States, Germany, the Middle East and Japan.

Founded 22 months ago, the Justice Party was among the parties which formed the "axis force" which played a crucial role in the election of Abdurrahman Wahid as president in October last year.(jun)