05/22/2009, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Presidential elections: Yudhoyono seeks votes among radical Islamists

by Mathias Hariyadi
In July the country votes for its’ President and his deputy. The candidacy of three ex-military men stokes fears of a drift towards “nationalism” that could “lead to fundamentalism”. The PKS demands more representatives in government; Catholics and industrialists concerned for the future of the nation.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The race is on for the July 8th presidential elections in Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim nation - and it is being characterised by a “nationalist” stamp that could lead to a “fundamentalist drift”, led by Muslim parties.  Catholics are concerned for the education system that would come under Islamic influence.  For many voters the presence of three army generals indicates a propaganda campaign aimed at “defending national interest and national unity”, which these three figures represent at a “political and moral” level.

In the list, alongside these three former military leaders, is the current head of state Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democrat Party, is favoured to win; for the post of vice president Susilo has indicated the governor of the Indonesian Central Bank Boediono. General Wiranto –former army chief of staff –would be number two to Jusuf Kalla for Golkar. The former army general Prabowo Subianto is also running for the vice presidency with the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle, whose leader is the former head of state Megawati Setiawati Soekarnoputri, whose presidential term ran from 2001 to 2004.  

Wiranto’s political performance has already been “tainted”: in May 1998 he proved incapable of stopping mass rioting against Chinese; a year later he was found to be indirectly involved in the massacres of East Timor. Prabowo Subianto instead has been cornered by minority groups for his close relationship with Fadli Zon leader of the Moon and Star Party (Pbb), which is also linked to a current of Islamic extremism.  The country’s attention however, is concentrated on the current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the electoral deal he has signed with the radical Islamic movement Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). Public opinion sees Susilo as “weak” and “indecisive”, incapable of distancing himself from the pressures of the more radical political fringes in the country.  The PKS, for its part, wants at least eight ministries, among them agriculture and education.  No chance decision in a nation in which the primary resource remains agriculture and the youth represent its future.

A Catholic priest sounds the alarm: if education is entrusted to a radical Islamic wing, the education system and minds of the young people will change.  One bishop adds: “If the report is true that PKS will hold the education ministerial post, the future of education will be totally changed and it will jeopardise the country’s political stability”.  The industrialists too are concerned: according to the catholic Chairman of the Indonesian Businessman Association Sofyan Wanandi, the nation’s “tradition of tolerance” is at risk.

In April elections to renew the provincial assemblies, voters rejected religious fundamentalism.  For the Presidential vote the favourite is seeking the support of the radical wing of Islam.  The PKS has already made known – for the future – that it will not be content with a backseat role: for elections in 2014 Hidayat Nurwahid has already promised to candidate his own man.  Taking over the education system “to brainwash students” and obtaining “consensus among the rural masses” are the first steps in the parties plan to achieve power.

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