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Jakarta Post

Amien Rais prepares new party amid PAN internal rift

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, May 15, 2020   /   07:39 pm
Amien Rais prepares new party amid PAN internal rift National Mandate Party (PAN) founder Amien Rais (left) talks with party chairman Zulkifli Hasan (right), who is also the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker, during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Indonesia's reform era at the MPR building in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on May 21. (Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

National Mandate Party (PAN) patron Amien Rais, known as an outspoken critic of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is preparing to form a new political party following an internal rift within PAN.

PAN cofounder and former party executive board member Agung Mozin told The Jakarta Post on Friday that Amien's new party would accommodate groups that were critical of the government. Amien, a PAN icon, lost his influence in the party after his leadership candidates lost to current party chairman Zulkifli Hasan.

“We call on government critics, no matter who the government is, not limited to the Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin administration, all elements of society that have the same concerns as us, to join the new party," Agung said of the plans for the new political party.

Jokowi’s coalition now controls more than 75 percent of seats at the House of Representatives, leaving only PAN, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic party outside the ruling group. PAN has 44 seats at the House, representing 7.6 percent of overall lawmakers.

Read also: At least 10 injured in violent dispute during second day of PAN congress

Amien, who founded the party on the back of the anti-establishment reform movement in 1998, is now no longer part of the organizational structure at PAN, which sided with hardline Islamic groups during several elections.

Agung explained that Amien and the group members had discussed with several government critics about the formation of the new party, to include elements from Islamic groups to academics.

“The discussions were not on behalf of institutions. They are individuals," he said without further elaboration. “University professors, regional figures have texted me to join, but I can’t mention their names.”

PAN’s internal rift widened recently upon the announcement that Amien’s son Hanafi Rais had submitted his resignation from the party. He will also give up his position as a lawmaker and chairman of the PAN faction at the House.

Agung said it remained unclear whether Hanafi would join the new party.

Read also: PAN’s internal rifts linger after violence, resignation

In his resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, Hanafi said he had resigned because of the lack of improvement in the party as it tended to support the government when it was supposed to be in opposition.

The party previously supported Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto in the 2019 presidential elections, but he now serves as Jokowi’s defense minister and Gerindra has joined the ruling coalition.

PAN chairman Zulkifli, who has signaled interest in joining the government coalition, regards the party as a “critical partner” of the government, as opposed to an opposition party, following his reappointment for five years starting February this year.

PAN cofounder Putra Jaya Husein, who stepped down from the party organization in 2018, said that Hanafi’s resignation had encouraged many members to establish the new political party. Hanafi's resignation might encourage other members to follow suit given Zulkifli's reelection, he added.

"Hanafi’s resignation has spurred us to establish a new party. He did not resign because he wanted to join us. It was only his attitude that inspired us to do so,” said Putra, who quit PAN because of frictions with Zulkifli.

Read also: PKS ready to stand alone as opposition

Preparations for the new party were almost 70 percent complete, he added.

In PAN’s leadership contest in February, Amien made Hanafi a candidate for the role of party secretary-general if Mulfachri Harahap, Zulkifli’s rival, was elected party chairman.

However, a dispute between Zulkifli and Mulfachri eventually culminated in an incident in which at least 10 party members were injured during the congress. In a video of the incident, several congress participants are seen throwing chairs at each other after the congress leader had adjourned the meeting.

PAN deputy chairman Viva Yoga Mauladi expressed doubts about Amien's plan to establish a new party, saying Amien was attached to PAN.

“I personally doubt that Pak Amien will establish a new party, considering his love for PAN,” said Yoga. “Amien and PAN are inseparable.”

However, Putra said that Amien and his loyalists had lost faith in PAN, pointing out that it would have been unthinkable for Amien to create a new party if it had not been triggered by internal problems within the party.

"We feel sad doing this because we have to leave the home that we built from scratch, but we’ve lost hope,” he added.

Indonesia Political Review executive director Ujang Komarudin said Amien should attract Muhammadiyah grassroot supporters if he wanted the party to grow and compete with PAN and other parties.

"The opportunity to take Muhammadiyah's mass following is quite big. Because as we know, Amien was leader of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia,"

He added there was once a splinter party of PAN in 2006, the National Sun Party (PMB), but it was unable to grow and compete with PAN as both were identical.

"New parties find it difficult to compete with older parties. It's because they don't have a mass following, even if they have a huge advertising budget," Ujang said.