Sat, 06 Mar 1999

Muslim leaders say PKB 'fills NU's shoes'

JAKARTA (JP): Many traditional Muslim leaders assume that the National Awakening Party (PKB) is the reincarnation of the now- defunct Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Party, a leading NU figure said.

The chairman of NU's Central Java chapter, Achmad, told reporters on Friday that PKB deserved the status because it was the only political party formed and run by NU leaders.

"We are of the impression that PKB fills NU's shoes adequately, because PKB in principle serves as a lajnah siyasah (political institution) of NU," Achmad said after a meeting with local PKB executives in Semarang.

NU was a leading party in the past, with grassroots support mostly from villagers across Java. Under its controversial incumbent chairman Abdurrahman Wahid, NU was declared a nonpolitical organization during the 1984 national congress in Situbondo, East Java.

PKB was established in July last year, naming Matori Abdul Djalil its first chairman. Abdurrahman is one of the party's patrons.

During the meeting, both Achmad and his PKB counterpart, Nurhadi Iskandar Al-Barsany, agreed to cooperate to help the party win most of the votes in East Java in the June 7 elections.

Achmad donated Rp 500,000 (US$56) as a token of his intention to help PKB. He is a civil servant, but he said he would not vote for the Golkar Party.

"I've never accepted any money from Golkar, although I am a civil servant. We NU followers won't betray PKB," Achmad said as quoted by Antara.

A government regulation issued late January bans civil servants from political activities, ending almost three decades of Golkar's monopoly on civil servants' allegiances.

Nurhadi said both PKB and NU bore the responsibility of building a nation which recognizes pluralism, democracy and social justice.

New regulations

Separately, Nurhadi lamented the government's failure to satisfactorily formulate a set of regulations on political operations.

Nurhadi said such regulations must be prepared as soon as possible because the second stage of the election process, including the registration of eligible voters and the nomination of legislative candidates, is drawing near.

Registration of voters will run from March 18 through April 17, while the nomination of legislative candidates take place between March 1 and March 15.

"If the government has the good will to organize a fair and just general election, those regulations must be announced," Nurhadi said.

The Central Java office of PKB also urged local executives of parties which have qualified for the polls to join forces in pushing the bureaucracy to ease the difficulties involved in applying for identity cards.

Only Indonesian citizens aged 17 or above are eligible to vote. They must show their ID cards before voting.

"We have asked the Central Java governor to follow in the footsteps of West Java's authorities, which have allowed residents to obtain ID cards for free and in a very simple way before March 18," Nurhadi said.

He said such measures would restrict the possibility of unfair elections.

In Medan, North Sumatra, local executives of the United Development Party (PPP), the Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle also demanded the provincial administration drop the fees from ID card applications.

"The local government could allocate funds from the province's budget to finance the free ID card program," T. Syaifuddin of Golkar told The Jakarta Post.

An application for an ID card can cost a resident up to Rp 40,000 (US$4.5), far above the official fee of Rp 1,000.

Maringan Panjaitan of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) said the program would increase the participation rate in the elections. "Everybody will turn up for the polls if they can get their ID cards easily," Maringan said.

Meanwhile, Central Java PPP chairman Thoyfoer M.C. suggested that parties that have failed to qualify for the elections take part as watchdogs while regrouping for the next elections.

"No need to protest the independent screening team or lose control. It's better for those not qualifying to watch out that the elections run in a fair and just manner," Thoyfoer said in Semarang.

The government-sanctioned evaluation team announced on Thursday that 48 parties were fit to contest the elections.

Thoyfoer said the number of eligible parties was enough to show the government's intention to hold fair and just elections.

"The team's decision is in line with democratic principles. It has accommodated as many people's aspirations as possible," Thoyfoer said.

The Crescent Star Party (PBB) also has inaugurated a poll monitoring network called Aksi Pemilihan Umum (APU). It comprises young members of the party.

"We have established the network in 327 regional branches. The aim is to watch out for violations before, during and after the elections," Abdul Rahman Saleh, one of PBB's leaders, said in a seminar on election monitoring in Jakarta on Friday.

"The more poll watchdogs the better. It's better for a party not to seek to win alone, but to seek fair play," he said.

In the town of Sampang on Madura island, East Java, PPP deputy secretary-general Saleh Khalid retorted allegations that the party was a part of the New Order because it was established during the regime's rule.

"We were one of the New Order's victims. We lost many of our votes because of election-rigging by the New Order regime," Saleh said. PPP is an amalgamation of Muslim parties.

He expressed guarded optimism that PPP would meet its target of winning 22.5 percent of votes, as long as the elections are free of cheating. (21/edt/amd)