Muslim leaders join fray in coalition game
Bagus BT Saragih
The Jakarta Post
Prominent clerics from 67 Muslim organizations have called on the five Islamic-based parties to band together in a coalition ahead of the July 9 presidential election.
Led by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and issuing the statement collectively as the Islamic People's Forum (FUI), the clerics said such a coalition would represent the interests of Muslim voters.
The statement comes as the five Islamic-based parties, which collectively garnered enough votes to sway the result of the presidential election, conduct internal and external negotiations to apparently decide which major nationalist party to ally with: the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Golkar Party or the Gerindra Party. All three have named presumptive presidential nominees.
Basri Barmanda, chairman of the Tarbiyah Islamiyah Association (Perti) and an initiator of the FUI, said the Islamic parties could distance themselves from the three major parties, form their own coalition and nominate their own presidential candidate.
'We are calling on leaders of Islamic-based parties to accomplish the mandate and responsibility by fulfilling the hope of Muslims in the country for the establishment of a coalition of Muslim-based parties,' Basri said in a statement quoted by Antara news agency.
Among those attending the event were representatives from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organization; Muhammadiyah, the second largest; Al-Washliyah; Islamic Union (Persis); Indonesian Islamic Union; Al-Irsyad; Indonesian Islamic Preaching Council (DDII); Islam Defenders Front (FPI); and Indonesian Muslim Scholars Union (ICMI).
MUI chairman Din Syamsuddin was also present and said that a coalition of Muslim-based parties made perfect sense.
'Taken together, Islamic-based parties got around 32 percent of the vote [in the April 9 legislative election]. This is significant. This must not be wasted,' he said.
Last week, representatives of several Islamic organizations joined Muslim-based party politicians in a meeting in Cikini, Central Jakarta, to discuss the possibility of setting up such a coalition.
Among politicians attending the meeting were former Muhammadiyah chairman and PAN cofounder Amien Rais, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Anis Matta, National Awakening Party (PKB) treasurer Bahruddin Nashori and United Development Party (PPP) senior politician Maj. Gen. (ret) Kivlan Zen.
Din suggested that the PKB, which won more than 9 percent of the vote based on early results, could lead the alliance.
But PKB executive Marwan Jafar shrugged off the proposal and said that the party was close to striking a deal with the PDI-P.
'We are now just waiting for the right momentum [to declare support for Jokowi],' the PKB's other executive, Abdul Kadir Karding, said on Monday.
Jokowi recently said the PDI-P had narrowed down his possible running mates from five to three. Media reports have suggested that the three are former Army chief of staff Gen. (ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu, former Constitutional Court chief justice and PKB politician Mahfud MD and former vice president Jusuf Kalla.
Although Kalla is with the Golkar Party and is its former chairman, the PKB has said it could be willing to support him for vice president. Kalla is also a senior NU member.
Meanwhile, the PPP appears to have drifted away from Gerindra, following a worsening rift within the party leadership following the ouster of party chairman Suryadharma Ali for his decision to support the presidential bid of Prabowo Subianto.
On Sunday, a faction of the party leadership led by secretary-general Muchammad Romahurmuziy moved to dismiss Suryadharma from his post as party chairman.
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