Sun, 14 Dec 2003

ICMI to set criteria for candidates

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) said on Saturday that it would set criteria for presidential candidates as guidelines for the people to elect their future leader.

It also said that it would not support founder and former president B.J. Habibie as a candidate in the 2004 elections, when the country is scheduled to hold its first direct presidential election.

"ICMI will not push for Habibie's candidacy, but will set guidelines to help people in choosing the president," ICMI chairman Muslimin Nasution was quoted by as saying.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the association's three-day national meeting, Nasution said ICMI would become a movement to ensure the success of the coming direct election.

He said despite the wish of several ICMI leaders, Habibie had turned down their requests.

"He makes the decision," Nasution said.

A total of 24 political parties have been declared eligible for the legislative election in April 20, 2004 and two-stage presidential election in July and September respectively.

Habibie took over as president after Soeharto stepped down in May 1998. On Oct. 20, 1999, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) elected Abdurrahman Wahid as the country's fourth president. Since then, Habibie has been residing in Germany to attend to his ailing wife and has rarely returned to Indonesia.

ICMI was established in 1990 by Habibie, then state minister of research and technology under Soeharto's regime, and was seen as a political vehicle for Soeharto to garner support from Muslim scholars.

Incumbent MPR speaker Amien Rais and other Muslim scholars such as Azwar Anas and Achmad Tirtosoediro were also founders of the association.

However, since the end of Habibie's presidency, the organization lost its popularity and only recently made a comeback on the country's political stage.

A meeting between Habibie and incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri early this year boosted ICMI's confidence to regain influence.

In the opening ceremony of the national meeting on Friday, Habibie said the ICMI should stay out of politics and urged the association to play an active role in the coming elections by providing information for the people.

Many of the country's noted leaders are scheduled to address the meeting such as the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Jusuf Kalla.

Senior politicians from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Kwik Kian Gie will and Golkar's party presidential aspirant Gen. (ret) Wiranto will also be among speakers at the meeting.