Said Agil Siradj won the race to lead Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) on Saturday, but not without strong resistance from Golkar politician Slamet Effendy Yusuf.
Family ties were clearly not an important factor in the race to lead the country’s largest Muslim organization as evidenced by the defeat of Solahudin “Gus Solah” Wahid, a grandson of NU founder Hasyim Asy’ari.
Said was voted in as NU executive (tanfidziyah) chief and respected cleric Sahal Mahfudz was unanimously chosen in a separate race to lead NU’s lawmaking body (syuriah) until 2015.
In a tight two-horse race, Said secured 294 votes to edge out Slamet, who surprised the congress by garnering 201 votes during the second round of voting.
Only one of the 503 contested votes was invalid and six voters abstained from casting ballots.
The two rival candidates were the only hopefuls who managed to pass the preliminary vote to determine the eligibility of candidates for a second round.
Slamet’s success in the first round surprised many participants at the five-day congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi, which officially wraps up on Sunday.
In the first round, 10 candidates were nominated by voters, including liberal Muslim scholar Ulil Abshar-Abdalla and NU intellectuals Gus Solah, Ahmad Bagja, Ali Maschan Moesa and Masdar Farid Mas’udi.
However, eight hopefuls were disqualified after failing to get the minimum 99 votes, as Said and Slamet garnered 178 and 158 votes respectively.
Gus Solah and Masdar, widely seen as frontrunners in the race, only managed to post 83 and six votes respectively, while Ali Maschan and Bagja, who was backed by outgoing NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi, got eight and 34 votes respectively.
Another surprise came from the liberal camp when Ulil secured support in the first round of the race, although he faced a serious challenge in NU’s new standing orders that banned clerics with liberal interpretations of Islam from entering the race.
Earlier in the day, Sahal won re-election for another five-year term after his closest rival Hasyim Muzadi opted to quit the contest.
The powerful syuriah contest appeared to turn into a two-horse race with both Sahal and Hasyim taking significant leads in the vote count to determine eligible candidates.
Sahal secured 272 votes against Hasyim’s 180 in the preliminary vote, forcing the latter to declare his withdrawal prior to a second round of voting.
“I am not ready to be nominated as NU syuriah chairman,” Hasyim said in a statement read out by the chief of NU’s South Sulawesi branch, M. Zein Irwantho, who presided over the voting. Voters then agreed to unanimously declare Sahal the winner.
“In true NU tradition, there was no competition in the syuriah leadership election,” senior NU figure Nasaruddin Umar said.
Alzastrouw, a former aide of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, called Hasyim a “hero” in the congress for respecting NU traditions of seniority.
The remaining 12 syuriah candidates, including senior clerics Maimun Zubair, Habib Luhfi and presidential adviser Ma’ruf Amin, missed the cut after securing less than 99 votes each.