Tue, 30 Aug 1994

Rivalry for PPP top post intensifies

JAKARTA (JP): Competition for the top spot of the Moslem-based United Development Party (PPP) intensified at the start of the party congress yesterday as internal bickering deteriorated.

The government and the powerful Armed Forces (ABRI) remained unusually tightlipped about whom they endorsed, making it difficult to predict who will emerge as the winner of the power struggle.

Buoyed by officials' assurances of non-interference, many participants ventured to come up with their own candidates, setting the stage for possible confrontation in the chairmanship election scheduled for Thursday.

The strongest candidate, incumbent chairman Ismail Hasan Metareum, lost support from his own faction, Muslimin Indonesia (MI), which wants to see younger blood at the helm.

Meanwhile, the influential ulemas affiliated with Indonesia's largest Moslem organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) were divided into two camps with one supporting outgoing secretary general Matori Abdul Djalil, and the other Hamzah Haz, a PPP legislator.

PPP was formed by the 1973 merger of four Moslem political parties: MI, NU, Syarikat Islam (SI) and Perti. Although NU, which has 35 million members, is the largest, PPP leadership has always been dominated by MI.

The party will elect its new board of executives on Thursday. The selection process is also a source of conflict among PPP leaders. Some want voting by participants but others want the new leaders to be chosen by an electoral board.


Ismail Hasan, believed to have strong backing from ABRI and the government, was optimistic yesterday that the congress would ultimately re-elect him to another five-year term.

But MI chairman, H.J. Naro, whom Ismail Hasan ousted as PPP chairman in 1989, reiterated yesterday that he retracted his endorsement for him on the grounds that the incumbent chairman had failed to develop PPP's full potential.

"Ismail Hasan has failed to uphold the party constitution because he has often violated the statutes," Naro said. He added that MI would not field a candidate and would accept the eventual winner.

Naro said that under Ismail Hasan, PPP lost four provinces in the 1992 general election even though as a whole it gained one seat in the House of Representatives (DPR).

Naro, a controversial figure during his PPP tenure, admitted to collaborating with Matori in a bid to topple Ismail Hasan but declined to detail the arrangement.

Opposition to Ismail Hasan was dramatized by banner-waving youths and students who demonstrated outside the Haj Dormitory in Pondok Gede, East Jakarta, where the congress is being held.

"Down with Ismail Hasan Metareum," one poster read. "Give way to Bintang Pamungkas" said another.


In the latest twist, 85 of PPP's 304 regency branches threw their support behind H.M. Dault, a little known prosecutor-turned-politician affiliated with MI for the party top slot.

Dault, who runs a private law office in Jakarta, also received strong support from 12 provincial chapters, including Jakarta, Aceh, Jambi, Irian Jaya and East Timor.

Saadudin Ibrahim of Jambi told journalists yesterday that Dault enjoys strong support from many politicians in Perti and SI.

On another camp, Matori claimed representatives from 173 party branches rallied behind him.

Meanwhile, candidate Sri Bintang Pamungkas claimed that his rivals tried to bar participants from four provinces who support his bid from attending the congress.

Bintang, an outspoken legislator who receives backing from students and youth groups, has been denied entry to the congress on the grounds that he does not represent any party branch.

Meanwhile, in his account of leadership last night, Ismail criticized the way the government handled the 1992 general election process.

He said the election was laden with fraud, leading to low gains for PPP. Citing examples, he said many local governments, which backed Golkar, refused to issue campaign permits for PPP and harassed the party's supporters.

"It all showed that a democratic election remains elusive," he told congress participants.

He added PPP recorded 1,200 cases of "unfair treatment" against the party in several provinces, such as North Sulawesi, Aceh and West Sumatra. (pan/par)