The Jakarta Post
The National Mandate Party's (PAN) senior politician, Amien Rais, one of the icons of the country's reform movement, has made a comeback into the political limelight although many have criticized his overzealous support for the candidacy of the Gerindra Party's Prabowo Subianto, his nemesis from the reform era.
Amien, whose official position in PAN is chairman of the advisory board, caused a stir by invoking terms from one of the momentous occasions in the history of Islam to champion Prabowo's case.
Amien suggested that Prabowo's presidential campaign could make good use of the spirit of the Battle of Badr, one of the key battles in the history of Islam, in order to win in the July 9 election.
'Such a provocative act is unacceptable because it makes use of religious sentiment. This election is not the same as a war in which one party wins and another is slain,' spokesman of rival candidate pair Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo-Jusuf Kalla, Abdul Kadir Karding, said as quoted by Antara.
The Battle of Badr was the first major battle in the war between the Muslims led by Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe in Mecca in the second year of the Muslim calendar. The Muslim victory is regarded as a catalyst in the further development of Islam.
Karding, who is a member of the National Awakening Party's (PKB) central board, said that Amien should not promote sectarian politics, as he was a well-known national figure who had once stood on an inclusive political platform.
In the past few weeks, Amien has made statements that have called into question his credentials as a reformist.
Late last month, he made headlines when he revealed his support for Prabowo in Yogyakarta, fueling speculation that PAN would be backing the Gerindra-led coalition in the presidential election.
This triggered protests from human rights activists and other prominent figures, most recently the literary icon Goenawan Mohammad.
Goenawan, who was a co-founder to the party, quit the party following PAN's decision.
PAN eventually backed Prabowo, after Prabowo decided to pick party chairman Hatta Rajasa as his running mate. In his speech to inaugurate the ticket, Amien went out of his way to liken Prabowo to the nation's founding father, Sukarno.
Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said Amien Rais was now only a shadow of the man he used to be.
Ikrar said that Amien was no longer the man who convinced 19 LIPI researchers to support the impeachment of former president Soeharto in 1998. 'I was among the people whom Amien talked to back then,' said Ikrar, insisting that he knew how much the former Muhammadiyah chairman pushed for reform.
Ikrar also said that Amien had moved a long way from his stance in 2009 when he was furious with then PAN chairman Sutrisno Bachir's decision to support Prabowo in 2009. 'I am shocked [at his current stance],' he said.
To Ikrar, Amien seemed to be obsessed with pushing Hatta Rajasa as a way to achieve the stature that was denied him back in 1999.
Amien was nominated as chairman of the Peoples' Consultative Assembly (MPR), a position that had little political power in spite of his role as a king maker who helped the election of then Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Abdurrahman 'Gus Dur' Wahid as the country's fourth president.
Contacted separately, Bogor Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto defended Amien against the accusation that he had fallen from grace.
'To say that Pak Amien is a reformist-turned-into a bad guy is too much. I think he has been consistent in his approach to politics,' Bima told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Bima said that Amien was the reason he entered politics. Bima said he had been impressed by Amien's opposition to Soeharto's New Order regime in the late 1980s.
Bima, who later co-founded the Bandung chapter of the party, also said that the party's move to back Prabowo was a collective decision.
'When I see Gerindra, it reminds me of PAN in 1998. Our platforms are very similar,' said Bima. (tjs)
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