Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Young PKS voters may not go with board's endorsement

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta

Although young supporters of the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) are anxious about which presidential candidate their leaders will endorse in the July 5 polls, they said it would do little to influence their voting choices.

Fedra Devata Rosi, 18, a PKS youth member, said that whoever was endorsed by the party's central board would not necessarily be voted for by the party's rank and file.

"PKS members are smart and they can't easily be led in making up their minds. They will not vote for candidates who will damage the party's credibility," she claimed.

She said that the divisions over which presidential candidate the PKS would endorse was nothing unusual as the opposing camps within the PKS each had strong reasons.

"Whatever the party decides, it will be for the good of the party. The decision must be carefully considered as it will not only affect the PKS and its members, but also the whole nation" she told The Jakarta Post.

Fedra, a first year student at the University of Indonesia, was commenting on a strenuous tug-of-war between two camps within the party that has prevented a swift decision on which candidate it will support in the presidential election -- whether it will be Golkar Party candidate Gen. (ret) Wiranto or Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party (PAN).

However, when asked if an endorsement of Wiranto could have an adverse impact on the party due to his alleged involvement in human rights violations, she said: "The accusation has been pushed along by the media and those who dislike him. We have to look at his true personality and how he heads his family to gauge whether or not he is worthy of our support."

Despite a string of accusations, the latest leading to an arrest warrant from an East Timor court, Wiranto has never been declared a suspect in Indonesia for human rights abuses.

Another party supporter, Widiyanto, 23, also said, "Even if the central board fails to issue a recommendation before July 5, we will still vote according to our consciences," he said, adding: "We need a strong leader in the fight against corruption." The PKS advanced the stamping out of corruption as its main theme during the legislative election campaign.

When asked his preference, he said: "I think Wiranto has the traits required of a strong leader. We also consider him to be a clean candidate."

Party supporter Endang Widiati, who voiced support for Amien, said that although an endorsement would matter little to educated and urban middle class supporters, it could, however, influence members in rural areas.

"In the past five years, the PKS has turned into a mass party that includes those from the rural regions, and they will surely follow whatever the central board decides," she said.

However, Endang said that the protracted talks over prospective candidates indicated that the PKS was nothing more than a regular political party that was only interested in calculating gains and losses when making decisions.

"If the PKS is committed to reform and corruption eradication, why don't they just pick Amien," she said, referring to the vocal figure once dubbed the "locomotive of the reform movement."