Thu, 27 May 2004

PKB confirms support for Wiranto

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Surabaya/Semarang

Presidential candidate Gen. (ret) Wiranto of the Golkar Party and running mate Solahuddin Wahid finally secured support from the National Awakening Party (PKB) on Wednesday, but not from but its influential cofounder Abdurrahman Wahid.

Abdurrahman, better known as Gus Dur, said he endorsed the bid of Wiranto and former rights campaigner Solahuddin, who is also his brother, but would not vote in the July 5 poll in protest over the General Election Commission (KPU)'s decision to disqualify him as a presidential candidate.

"The PKB executive board in a plenary session today (Wednesday) unanimously decided to nominate Solahuddin as its candidate for the vice presidency, paired with Wiranto," Gus Dur told a press conference.

The party, however, will withdraw its support if in the near future the KPU reviews its decision to disqualify Gus Dur from the poll.

The KPU ruled that the visually impaired former president was unfit to run in the election.

Party chairman Alwi Shihab, executives Mahfud M.D. and Arifin Junaidi and several influential clerics of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Abdullah Faqih from Langitan, East Java, Abdurrahman Chudori from Magelang, Central Java, Muhammad Gunarto from Temanggung, Central Java, Mas Ahmad Subadar from Pasuruan, East Java and Muhammad Idris Marzuki from Lirboyo, East Java were all present. Another influential cleric, Abdullah Abbas from Buntet Islamic boarding school in Cirebon, West Java, did not attend.

Abbas has reportedly lent his support to NU Chairman Hasyim Muzadi in the election as the running mate for President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

PKB also decided to manage the campaign for Wiranto and Solahuddin ahead of the election.

PKB secured the third largest number of votes in the recent legislative election behind Golkar and PDI-P. PKB has its roots in the NU, the country's largest Muslim organization which has 40 million followers.

Wiranto hailed PKB's decision, calling it as "a confirmation of the commitment from both Golkar and PKB."

"From the very beginning, I have predicted that PKB will support me. The decision is a confirmation for Solahuddin and I. I thank the party for the support and now I'm confident that I will win the upcoming election," Wiranto said in Pekalongan, Central Java.

But political analyst Daniel Sparringa from Airlangga University in Surabaya did not share Wiranto's optimism. Daniel said Gus Dur had created "a fair battle" among NU-linked candidates.

"Most of the NU members will follow each word coming from Gus Dur. Indeed he agreed to allow PKB to support Solahuddin, who was a deputy NU chairman. But since the most influential figure in NU, Gus Dur, said he would boycott the election, PKB's support will not automatically translate into a huge number of votes for Solahuddin.

"Of course it is a good political experience for NU followers because they will have other options in exercising their political rights after being loyal to the PKB for the past five years," Daniel told The Jakarta Post.

Moments after the PKB announced its support for Wiranto and Solahuddin, the wives of the two, Rugaiya Usman Wiranto and Faridah S. Wahid, visited the NU women's dormitory in Surabaya, asking the students to vote for their spouses.

The two women also plan to visit several boarding schools in East Java, including Paiton in Probolinggo.

NU support -- Page 2