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Jakarta Post

Muhaimin elected PKB chairman for third term

  • Wahyoe Boediwardhana

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya, East Java   /   Tue, September 2, 2014   /  10:16 am

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar is on his way to becoming one of the country'€™s longest-serving political party chairpersons after the National Awakening Party'€™s (PKB) national congress unanimously agreed on Monday to appoint him as party chairman until 2019.

Participants of the congress, who represented the party'€™s 33 provincial branch executive boards (DPW), 505 regional branch executive boards (DPC) and 10 overseas branches, also agreed to reappoint cleric Azis Mansyur as the leader of the PKB'€™s syuro (religious) council.

Muhaimin, who has served as party chairman since 2005, however, denied that the absence of alternative candidates for the party chairmanship during the congress was a setback for the PKB.

Many credited Muhaimin'€™s reelection with his success in securing 9 percent of the vote in the April 9 legislative election, making the PKB the sixth-largest political party in the country, surpassing the once-popular Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the United Development Party (PPP).

Muhaimin also made the decision to join the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)-led coalition in nominating president-elect Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo.

'€œThis [unanimous support] shows the PKB'€™s solidity,'€ he said soon after his reelection. '€œEveryone did not want a competition and instead prefers to work, work and work [for the party].'€

Established in 1998 at the start of the reform era, the PKB finished third in the 1999 general election, behind the PDI-P and the Golkar Party, after securing 12.6 percent of the vote.

With support from other Muslim-based parties, the PKB also successfully brought party cofounder and former chairman of the country'€™s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Abdurrahman '€œGus Dur'€ Wahid, to the presidency in 1999.

The PKB came in third again in the 2004 general election after clinching 10.6 percent of the vote, but dropped to seventh place five years later with only 4.9 percent of votes, mainly due to a long-standing conflict over the party'€™s leadership between Muhaimin and Gus Dur'€™s family.

In the 2009 legislative election, still under Muhaimin'€™s leadership, the PKB garnered 5 percent of the vote, securing only 28 seats in the House of Representatives.

Despite a strained relationship with NU, Muhaimin, 47, was credited with the party'€™s electoral success this year.

He, for example, managed to recruit tycoon Rusdi Kirana, one of the country'€™s richest people, to join the party and was able to consolidate support from NU clerics ahead of the legislative election.

Widely known for his ambition and shrewd political maneuvering, Muhaimin proposed to presidential candidate Jokowi that the PKB ought to get a vice-presidential ticket in the July 9 race, an offer that Jokowi publicly declined.

Jokowi said on the sidelines of the congress that he was considering Muhaimin for a ministerial position in his future Cabinet.

'€œPak Muhaimin not only deserves [to become a minister], but also is very skillful and capable [of being a minister],'€ he said.