Mon, 29 Aug 1994

Ismail Hasan's reelection by no means certain

JAKARTA (JP): The reelection of Ismail Hasan Metareum as chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) is by no means certain as the party begins its congress today.

Leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest faction in the party, announced on Saturday that it was fielding one candidate -- Matori Abdul Djalil, who is currently PPP's secretary general.

Meanwhile, Muslimin Indonesia (MI), which has Ismail Hasan as a member, could not agree on a single candidate. One group in the faction wants to see Ismail Hasan reelected but another wants to field Cholil Badawi, a member of the Supreme Advisory Council.

Most of the delegates at the congress arrived at the Haj Dormitory in Pondok Gede, East Jakarta, last night in time for this morning's opening ceremony at the Jakarta Hilton Convention Center.

President Soeharto, who has not attended to state affairs since he was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

The congress itself is scheduled to last until Sept.1.

Banners in green -- the party's color -- are line up on the main streets leading to the Haj Dormitory, which will also be the venue of the gathering.

PPP is a 1973 fusion of four Moslem parties -- NU, MI, Syarikat Islam and Perti. The congress, as in the two previous gatherings, is expected to be another round of power struggles between the factions -- most notably between NU and MI.

NU politicians have vowed to wrest the chairmanship from MI. On Saturday, the group's senior ulemas announced that they were united in supporting Matori's candidacy.

He is seen as the chief contender against Ismail Hasan, whose support appeared to waver in the past week with some of his traditional supporters, including those from MI, pulling the rug out from under him.

On Saturday night, MI leaders were still bickering about which candidate to support.

Both Ismail Hasan and Cholil Badawi resisted pressures to back down and make way for the other. MI insiders said that if the two men insisted on contesting the election, neither man was likely to win.

Sritua Siregar, a functionary at PPP central executive board, believes that the majority of MI favor Cholil over the incumbent.

Sritua said Cholil was preferred because of his experience, adding that his position as a member of the Supreme Advisory Council was a ticket for him to gain respect from the government.

Ismail Hasan, however, enjoys strong support from most of the party's provincial chapters, who could provide him with the necessary backing at the election.

The congress participants comprise of representatives from PPP's 27 provincial boards and 292 branch offices, and members of the current executive board. The election will be carried out by a team of "formatters", a seven-member board who will deliberate behind closed doors to decide on the chairman, the secretary general the 15 other appointments at central executive board.

Sofyan Usman, another member of the PPP central executive board, cried foul on Saturday because of what he perceived to be political maneuvers by Ismail Hasan's supporters to ensure his reelection.


Ismail Hasan's camp is trying to steer the congress proceedings in such a way that the provincial boards' views could be taken to represent the views of the branches in their respective provinces.

"This is against the party's stature," he told reporters. "It is the right of every participant to communicate their point of view."

"Political engineering is all right, but it will not teach the cadres anything... If he (Ismail Hasan) wants to win, he must use methods that are constitutionally approved," he said.

Meanwhile, two candidates have emerged for the secretary general's appointment, considered to be the second most prominent position in PPP's leadership board.

Soeleman Fadeli, a functionary at the East Java board, has been nominated by a number of branches in the province to become the party's secretary general.

Another candidate is Muhammad Rodja, of PPP Jakarta. A faithful supporter to Ismail Hasan, Rodja recently launched a book entitled PPP Problema dan Prospek (PPP's Problems and Prospects) as part of his campaign for the board seat.

Meanwhile, Hamzah Haz, coordinator of the congress, ruled out on Saturday the possibility that the government might try to influence the outcome of the congress by sending their representatives to the gathering as observers.

The party had earlier ruled that no observers would be invited.

Meanwhile NU chairman Abdurrahman Wahid gave the thumbs up to PPP vocal legislator Sri Bintang Pamungkas, who is also bidding for the party's chairmanship from the congress' sidelines.

Bintang was not invited to the parley but has insisted that he had the support from the party's "undercurrents".

"He keeps on campaigning even though he knows that he cannot become a congress participant," Abdurrahman said. (par) Editorial -- Page 4 Leadership -- Page 2