Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Money politics feared as Imam reelected

Ainur R. Sophiaan and A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya/Jakarta

The two-horse race for the East Java governorship ended in anticlimax on Thursday as Imam Utomo was reelected for another five-year term in an overwhelming vote over Abdul Kahfi.

The unexpected win sparked anger among the National Awakening Party (PKB) top brass, who were disappointed with the fragile coalition it formed with Golkar Party and National Mandate Party (PAN).

PKB patron Cholil Bisri demanded an internal investigation into the possibility of money politics,

"I sense the presence of money politics. It was very obvious," said Cholil, who is deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly.

He admitted that it would be difficult to prove his allegation, but he said he had asked the party's central board to look into the possibility.

PKB gubernatorial and deputy gubernatorial candidates Kahfi and Ridwan Hisyam managed to collect only 34 votes, far below expectations. Hopes were high prior to the election that Kahfi would win at least 44 seats following a meeting of PKB founder Abdurrahman Wahid, Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung and National Mandate Party (PAN) politician Fuad Bawazier on Monday.

Abdurrahman met PAN chairman Amien Rais during PKB's anniversary celebration in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The pair of Imam, a former military commander overseeing the province, and Soenarjo won 63 of a possible 100 votes to give President Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) the last laugh. Two ballots were declared invalid while one voter abstained.

All 10 provincial councillors representing the Indonesian Military/National Police faction apparently voted for Imam.

PDI had won the gubernatorial election in East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra and Jakarta, but suffered a surprise defeat in Lampung to its disloyal members and in West Java to Golkar.

Imam, another incumbent governor nominated by PDI Perjuangan, had secured Megawati's blessing after he promised to help her party develop.

Abdurrahman, who chairs PKB's board of patrons, regretted the outcome and the frail coalition with Golkar and PAN, which he had said would be maintained for next year's general election.

"PKB was solid, but the outcome was really a lesson for a bull-shit coalition. Actually, I had not made any commitment to Akbar Tandjung and Amien Rais, not like what had been printed by the media," said Abdurrahman as quoted by Antara. The former president was in Surabaya to watch over the gubernatorial election.

Amien concurred, saying PAN had not made any commitment to PKB and Golkar in the East Java gubernatorial election, but asserted there would be a permanent coalition among the three.

He said PAN's East Java chapter executives had told him that all the four party representatives would vote for Kahfi and Hisyam.

"I don't know whether the four ballots were cast for Kahfi and Ridwan, or they were divided evenly between the two candidates. But we realized that we are just a little player," Amien said.

Meanwhile, PKB officials in East Java accused Golkar of betrayal.

"We were asked to take an oath by Abdurrahman, so that we did not dare break our commitment," said Fathurrosyid, a member of the PKB faction.