Mon, 01 Aug 1994

PPP politicians set up `New NU'

JAKARTA (JP): A number of senior politicians of the United Development Party (PPP) have established a new group called "Nahdlatul Ummah" with the chief task of courting first time voters in the next general election in 1997.

Dubbed by the press as the "New NU", its founders said the group is not intended to denigrate the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), one of the four factions in the PPP, which is currently embroiled in the contest for the party's leadership.

"Nahdlatul Ummah" literally means the resurrection of the people while "Nahdlatul Ulama" means the resurrection of scholars.

"Nahdlatul Ummah is not at all linked to the NU or intended to denigrate it," said A.M. Saefuddin, a PPP legislator, whose idea it was to form the group. "We need this forum to collar first time voters in the next election."

The plan was endorsed during a meeting in Jakarta on Saturday. A number of other PPP politicians gave their approval, including Ali Hardi Kiaidemak, Hadimulyo and Saleh Khalid, the Antara news agency reported.

Saefuddin said neither the party nor any of its factions had ever seriously tried to tap first time voters in past elections.

He said that with 27 million first time voters in 1997, the party must pay attention to their needs. "We have to go to them, escort them, instead of waiting for them to come to us."

He added that Nahdlatul Ummah is also expected to provide a forum for people who want to carve careers in PPP without having to be identified with any of the four factions -- NU, Muslimin Indonesia, Perti and Sarekat Islam.

The party is scheduled to hold its congress on Aug. 28 in Jakarta to decide on the new lineup of its leadership.

The NU, the largest of the four factions, has vowed that it will wrest the chairmanship from the incumbent Ismail Hasan Metareum, who hails from Muslimin Indonesia. (emb)