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Jakarta Post

Newly established Nasdem aims high in general election

  • Hasyim Widhiarto

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, March 18, 2014   /  10:14 am
Newly established Nasdem aims high in general election

Supported by an army of experienced politicians and mass-media appearances, the Nasdem Party has publicly declared its confidence about becoming one of the country'€™s top political parties following its maiden outing in an election.

Initially established as a mass organization in 2010, Nasdem officially declared itself a political party the following year and has successfully become the only new political party contesting the April 9 legislative election.

In a recent exclusive interview with The Jakarta Post, Nasdem co-founder and chairman Surya Paloh said he was hopeful that his party could clinch at least 77 seats, or 13.8 percent, of the 560 House of Representatives seats on offer in the election.

'€œWe'€™re optimistic that we can win at least one seat from all the 77 electoral districts nationwide,'€ he said.

Surya also claimed that the party, despite its young age, had successfully established strongholds in Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and several areas of Sulawesi.

Having officially led Nasdem since last year, Surya, a businessman and former Golkar Party politician, has become a central figure in the party. Nasdem'€™s first national congress in January 2013, for example, granted the 62-year-old politician sole authority to handpick the party'€™s central board members and outline the party'€™s political strategy to win the upcoming election.

Surya and Nasdem'€™s political activities have also received wide coverage from news channel Metro TV and Media Indonesia daily, which are managed by Surya'€™s Media Group.

Prior to establishing Nasdem, Surya had spent more than four decades with Golkar, now the country'€™s second-largest party, and was appointed as the party'€™s advisory board chairman from 2004 to 2009.

In 2004, Surya ran as a candidate in Golkar'€™s presidential convention but lost to Wiranto, now the chairman of the Hanura Party. Five years later, Golkar endorsed then-party chairman Jusuf Kalla to run as the party'€™s presidential candidate. Both Wiranto and Kalla, however, lost their bids to retired Army general and Democratic Party chief patron Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Surya has repeatedly denied that his decision to form a new party was to pave the way for another presidential bid.

'€œMany people have said that if you want to build your country, you have to become president, but I believe this is wrong,'€ he told the Post.

Despite its status as a new party, Nasdem has managed to recruit a number of experienced politicians as its key members, including former Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Zulfan Lindan, former Hanura lawmaker Akbar Faizal, and former Golkar politicians Enggartiasto Lukita, Ferry Mursyidan Baldan and Victor Laiskodat.

Last year, Enggartiasto and Akbar even decided to quit as lawmakers following their decision to jump ship to Nasdem.

Sitting as Nasdem secretary-general is former student activist Patrice Rio Capella, Surya'€™s trustee, who chaired the party from 2011 to 2013.

Since its establishment, the party has consistently proposed the idea of Indonesia'€™s restoration, a concept Akbar defined as '€œthe new road map of Indonesia'€.

'€œTake our law enforcement as an example. Today, people dare to attack police stations and throw shoes at justices because we don'€™t have enough respect in our own Constitution. Nasdem will work to establish a new road map to win back people'€™s respect for the Constitution,'€ he said.

Despite Nasdem'€™s relentless efforts to attract voters, many recent surveys have predicted that the party will garner only around 5 percent of the vote in the upcoming election.

The Presidential Election Law requires all political parties to obtain a minimum 25 percent of the vote, or 20 percent of House seats, to be entitled to nominate a presidential candidate.

Surya said he was aware of his party'€™s relatively slim chances of endorsing its own presidential candidate and, therefore, chose instead to focus on improving the party'€™s collective performance ahead of the legislative election.

'€œIf most of the other parties are now busy endorsing their [presidential] candidates prior to the legislative election, that is their right. They have their own [campaign] styles,'€ he said.