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Jakarta Post

Pemuda Muhammadiyah's new leader vows to maintain nonpartisanship

  • Bambang Muryanto and Kharishar Kahfi

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta and Jakarta   /   Fri, November 30, 2018   /   06:58 am
Pemuda Muhammadiyah's new leader vows to maintain nonpartisanship Sunanto, the newly elected chairman of Pemuda Muhammadiyah, the youth wing of the country's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah. (The Jakarta Post/Bambang Muryanto)

Sunanto, the newly elected chairman of Pemuda Muhammadiyah, the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second largest Muslim organization, has said he would tread a different path from his predecessor Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak ahead of the 2019 presidential race.

Sunanto pledged that he would not bring the youth group into politics, nor become a supporter of any presidential candidate.

“We will maintain the neutrality of Pemuda Muhammadiyah and I won't be a part of [any] presidential campaign team,” Sunanto said in his victory speech on Wednesday night. “This is my commitment. I am committed to carry on [the duties of] Pemuda Muhammadiyah chairman until the end of my term.”

His predecessor Dahnil, whose term ended this year, is currently the spokesman of the campaign team of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and running mate Sandiaga Uno -- who are challenging President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in the 2019 election.

Sunanto, already a high-ranking official of the youth wing, was elected by an overwhelming vote in the 1,196-member plenary session late on Wednesday late during the wing’s national congress in Yogyakarta.

Sunanto won with 590 votes against rivals Ahmad Labibi with 292 votes and Ahmad Fanani with 266 votes. Three other candidates also ran.

Political analyst Adi Prayitno from the State Islamic University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta predicted that Pemuda Muhammdiyah would likely follow in the footsteps of its parent organization Muhammadiyah, which also recently vowed to maintain political impartiality.

“Sunanto is not part of any candidates’ campaign team. Therefore, cadres of Pemuda Muhammadiyah are under no obligation to lend their support, as an organization, to either candidates,” Adi said.

“I believe both camps in the presidential election will try to pull Pemuda Muhammadiyah toward supporting them. However, I’m optimistic the youth wing will respect the [organizational] hierarchy and follow the stance of its parent organization.”

Muhammadiyah chairman Haedar Nashir recently reiterated that the organization would uphold its philosophy of ummatan wasathon (moderate community) and would not pick sides in national politics, despite an apparent division among some Muhammadiyah elite members and influential figures affiliated with the group.

A National Mandate Party (PAN) patron and an adviser to the Muhammadiyah central executive board, Amien Rais earlier urged Muhammadiyah to choose a presidential candidate to support in the upcoming election. PAN is part of the coalition backing the Prabowo camp alongside Gerindra, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

In the 2014 presidential election, Muhammadiyah was also divided.

The former chairman of Muhammadiyah’s Students Association (IPM), Raja Juli Antoni, who has assumed the role of a campaigner for Jokowi, lauded Sunanto's decision to follow Haedar's nonpartisan lead.

"Just like Haedar, cak Nanto [Sunanto] will maintain Muhammadiyah free from political intervention," said Raja Juli, who is also the secretary-general of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), which endorses the Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin ticket, as quoted by

He said he suspected that the low number of votes obtained by Fanani, who is said to have been backed by Dahnil, showed that "This was Dahnil's punishment for being reckless when leading Pemuda Muhammadiyah by trying to drag it into politics."

Both Dahnil and Fanani have been in hot water over alleged involvement in a corruption case related to the use of the Youth and Sports Ministry’s 2017 budget. The Jakarta Police questioned them last week as witnesses in an alleged misuse of Rp 2 billion (US$137,888) channeled by the ministry to finance an Indonesian Islamic Youth camp conducted in Yogjakarta last year. The two have maintained their innocence. (ipa)