Wed, 17 Dec 2003

Siswono eyes 2004 presidential election through PSI

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Former transmigration minister Siswono Yudhohusodo has formally accepted the request of the newly established Indonesian Unity Party (PSI) to be its presidential candidate and pledged to help the party garner at least 5 percent of the vote in the 2004 elections.

Siswono, who chairs the Indonesian Farmers Brotherhood Union (HKTI), said on Tuesday that he would help the party win at least 5 percent of the vote to enable himself to run for the presidency.

He was referring to the presidential election law, which stipulates that a political party or group of parties can nominate a presidential candidate only if the party is able to gain at least 5 percent of the vote or three percent of seats in the House of Representatives (DPR).

"Before PSI decided to nominate me, I heard farmers in remote areas also ask me to run for the presidency. I hope this nomination can fulfill the hopes of those farmers," he said after signing an agreement with PSI chairman Rahardjo Tjakraningrat and secretary-general Moh. Jumhur Hidayat here on Tuesday.

Siswono once served as transmigration minister under the government of president Soeharto.

Earlier, Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB), which is chaired by former Army chief Gen. (ret) R. Hartono, asked Soeharto's daughter Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti "Tutut" Rukmana to be the party's presidential candidate.

Tutut, however, has not yet given a definitive response.

PSI chairman Rahardjo said that he had known Siswono for a long time. "I am convinced that he has the managerial skills highly needed to help the country recover," he said.

He promised that his party would refuse posts in the cabinet should Siswono get elected as president.

By staying in the House of Representatives (DPR), he said, his party would try to strengthen the checks-and-balances mechanism.

The signing of the political agreement between Siswono and PSI leaders was also attended by Tjokorda Samarina, Rudy Prayitno, and Tafrizal Hasan Kewang, who respectively chair the People's Bull Nationalist Party (PNI BK 1927), the Indonesian Labor Congress Party (PKPI) and the National Unity Party (PPB).

The three parties did not pass the factual screening of the General Elections Commission (KPU) to contest next year's elections.

They pledged to help PSI so that the party can gain at least five percent of the vote in the election.

Tjokorda said that he would ask members of his party to support PSI.

"We hope party members will support Pak Siswono by voting for PSI, to enable it to gain at least five percent of the vote," he said.

Around 140 million people are eligible to vote in next year's elections, which have been scheduled for April 5, 2004, for the legislative election, and July date? for the presidential election.

Tafrizal Hasan also said he hoped members of his party would vote for PSI to help the nomination of Siswono.

Rudy Prayitno, meanwhile, predicted that nonpartisan figures like Siswono Yudhohusodo would hold more advantage than figures from political parties in the contest for the presidency.

"(It is) because nonpartisan figures who have their own networks can multiply voters during elections," he said.