Sat, 27 Aug 1994

Tension mounts as major PPP congress nears

JAKARTA (JP): Three books on the United Development Party (PPP) were published separately on the eve of the party's major congress, as the various competing factions and individuals stayed locked in psychological warfare to try and influence the outcome of the gathering.

Tension started mounting as the congress participants began to arrive, yesterday, to occupy the huge Haj Dormitory in Pondok Gede, East Jakarta, which will be the main venue of the meeting. Most the delegates will be arriving today and tomorrow.

President Soeharto is scheduled to deliver his keynote address to the congress of the PPP, Indonesia's second largest political party after Golkar.

The party is the result of a 1973 fusion of four Islamic parties -- Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muslimin Indonesia (MI), Sarekat Islam (SI) and Perti. The four have retained their existence as mass organizations and are considered factions within the party.

The main agenda of the meeting is the election of the party's chairman, a crucial issue which many party insiders say could make or break the party's future.

Many believe that PPP's chances in the 1997 general election are threatened by the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), under the popular leadership of Megawati Soekarnoputri, which is looking more and more likely to sneak into second place and knock the PPP back. Golkar, now under the chairmanship of Harmoko, has also vowed to increase its shares of the vote in 1997.

Book launching

Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a vocal PPP legislator and one of the chairmanship aspirants, launched his book Demokrasi Ekonomi Dan Pembangunan (Economic Democracy and Development) last night which contains his thoughts about the party's future.

The Forum Komunikasi Nahdlatul Ummah Nusantara (Forum Konun), a newly formed group within the PPP, also launched a book on Friday, to present an alternative approach to the party's strategy for the upcoming election.

The forum is considered to be a support group of incumbent chairman Ismail Hasan Metareum, the leading candidate in the election race at the PPP congress next week.

Mohammad Rodja of the party's Jakarta chapter also launched a book entitled PPP Problema dan Prospek (PPP's Problems and Prospects), to give congress participants something to ponder.

Bintang is campaigning on a reformist platform. Considered a dark horse and an outsider, Bintang says he has the support of the party's young supporters.

Ismail Hasan has the support of the majority of the party's provincial and regency level branches whose leaders will be taking part in the congress and hold the key to the election outcome.

In the run up to the congress, the factions in the party are also locked in an intense power struggle. Each one has already drafted their proposals for the line up of the seven members of the "formatters", the board which will deliberate and appoint the chairman and the other members of the executive board.

The real contest is between NU, by far the largest of the four factions, and the MI, which has always dominated the party's leadership thanks largely to the support of the government. Ismail Hasan also hails from MI.

This time, NU is determined to wrest the chairmanship from MI, and is further encouraged by the government's promise that it will stay out of the chairmanship race.

NU's chief candidate is Matori Abdul Djalil, the current PPP secretary general, who in the last two weeks have distanced himself from Ismail Hasan's leadership which he considered a failure.

Other possible candidates for the race Hamzah Haz, Yusuf Hasyim, Karmani, Cholil Badawi, Hartono Mardjono, Husnie Thamrin, Yudo Paripurno and H.M Dault. (par/swe)