Suryadharma declares support for Prabowo as infighting intensifies
Hans Nicholas Jong, Hasyim Widhiarto and Ina Parlina
The Jakarta Post
United Development Party (PPP) chairman Suryadharma Ali pledged his party's support for Gerindra Party presidential nominee Prabowo Subianto on Friday.
The announcement came after Suryadharma fired several senior party members who had reportedly opposed his participation in a Gerindra rally last month that brought the PPP closer to Prabowo's party.
'The party's chairman and central board executives agreed to form a coalition with Pak Prabowo,' Suryadharma said at PPP headquarters in Central Jakarta.
He claimed the coalition was not formed on the back of a particular political agreement, and that he and Prabowo had not discussed running mates.
He went on to say that the coalition was formed due to the two parties' similar vision and mission. 'We feel that we have gained widespread support [from PPP executives], including deputy chairman, some executives, some deputy secretary-generals and the head of the religious council, Maimun Zubair.'
Suryadharma expressed confidence there would be no internal movement against the decision to back Prabowo. 'Maimun is a highly respected elder. So if he already gave clear and firm support [for the coalition], then Insya Allah [God willing] there will be no party factions who rebel,' he said.
Suryadharma's rivals within the party were quick to challenge his claims.
PPP campaign team head Fernita Darwis said the coalition had not yet been set in stone. 'Not yet. This is just a step taken to build political communication,' she told The Jakarta Post on Saturday after the party's announcement. 'The results of the communication that we build will be taken to the party's national meeting.'
Fernita reasoned that high-level decision making power rests with the national meeting. The party's secretary-general, Muchammad Romahurmuziy, also said the party's final stance would be decided during the meeting expected to be held in early May.
'Support [for Prabowo's candidacy] is sound, but the political stance has to be in accordance with the meeting's decision, therefore, it must receive the blessing of the meeting,' he said.
Though the coalition was tentative, Fernita said the party had already come up with a name for the alliance. 'If we decide to form the coalition in the end, then we will name it Gabah, which stands for Gerakan Indonesia Kaaba.'
Also undermining Suryadharma's claims of unity and certainty, is confusion regarding his dismissal of several senior party members, including Romahurmuziy.
PPP deputy secretary-general Syaifullah Tamliha said Suryadharma decided to dismiss Romahurmuziy for failing to resolve internal conflict among the party's executives. Syaifullah added that the order had been signed by Suryadharma on Saturday at a central executive board meeting and Romahurmuziy would be replaced by another party deputy secretary-general, Isa Muchsin.
Romahurmuziy, however, said that as far as he was concerned, he was still secretary-general, as Saturday's executive meeting was only attended by 15 members, fewer than half of the 55 on the board, and thus any decisions made were unofficial.
On Wednesday, Syaifullah also claimed that Suryadharma had officially dismissed deputy chairman Suharso Monoarfa, as well as leaders of the party's provincial chapters in West Java, East Java, North Sumatra, South Sulawesi and Central Kalimantan for plotting a coup to unseat Suryadharma.
On Thursday, Romahurmuziy denied that the officials had been sacked, saying no dismissal letters had been issued and any dissenting voices in the party would be peacefully reconciled.
'The PPP's statutes stipulate that a certain procedure be followed in relation to the dismissal of party members, which includes three warning letters, suspension and a party executive meeting [to discuss the dismissal],' he said.
'I am sure that none of this procedure has been followed. If any [dismissal] document is circulating, it must be fake and we cannot be held responsible.'
Suryadharma, who is also religious affairs minister, has been facing mounting calls to step down from a group of party officials following his 'unauthorized' participation in a major Gerindra rally at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta last month. During the event, he publicly expressed his support for Prabowo's presidential bid.
PPP deputy chairman Emron Pangkapi, for example, said Suryadharma's move ran counter to the party's recent national meeting in Bandung, West Java, which did not endorse Prabowo as one of PPP's prospective candidates for the upcoming presidential election.
The PPP received about 6 percent of the vote in the legislative election. Gerindra, which gained about 11 percent of the vote, needs to form a coalition with other parties to cross the 25 percent threshold needed to nominate a presidential candidate.
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