02/01/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Corruption and Islamists shaping next year's elections

by Mathias Hariyadi
Indonesians will soon go to the polls to choose Yudhoyono's successor. Ineligible for re-election, the current president has had positive reviews among voters even though not his record shows shortcomings when it comes to freedom of worship. Investigations by the Corruption Eradication Commission are set to influence the poll; so will extremist voters. For a moderate leader, it is better to have them as friends than as enemies.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Corruption and Islamist voters might heavily influence Indonesia's presidential election next year. In the meantime, they are already causing for political controversy and row.

In fact, recent events and mutual accusations are fuelling tensions among political parties at a time when a number of police investigations are underway.

Moderate Islamic parties are (also) trying to get the support of fundamentalist voters by running radical candidates.

This in turn has sparked criticism, from civil society groups as well. Some party leaders have curtly dismissed the latter, saying it is better to have Islamists as friends than as enemies.

Next year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's term in office comes to an end and he is no longer eligible for re-election.

Although seen in a positive light by many Indonesians, critics accuse him of focusing too much on political marketing. Others note his shortcomings in the area of religious minority protection.

Retired General Prabowo Subianto is one of the candidates lining up to succeed him. A controversial figure, the former military man was once married to President Suharto's daughter. Hanging over him are also allegations of human rights violations when he was in the military.

Associated with the state's top offices, corruption and moral integrity are for voters the main issues in the upcoming campaign at a time when popular trust in politicians is at its lowest.

Yesterday, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the president f the Justice Prosperous Party (PKS), a radical Islamist party, and three other people, became embroiled in a scandal over meat imports.

According to Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Ishaaq and his aides accepted bribes by meat import businesses. As a result of his indictment, public opinion is under shock.

PKS officials have not made any statement on the matter, but unofficially they are saying that the charges against their leader are false and political motivated to discredit the Islamist party.

A few days ago, another scandal broke out also with wide media coverage. In this case, a high ranking official with the Golkar Party, Priyo Budi Santoso, was accused in connection with a corruption case dubbed the 'Koran affair'. Santoso too has rejected the charges, claiming that he is no involved in religious issues.

Still, religion is bound to play a decisive role in next year's elections, especially with regards to extremist groups.

United Development Party (PPP) announced that Munarman, a top leader in the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), will run for a parliamentary seat under its banner. He is especially known for his anti-Christian views and opposition to freedom of religion.

Moderate parties like the PPP are clearly trying to widen their appeal in order to win votes among radical Islamists.

When asked why the party was doing this, party president Suryadharma Ali said that it was wiser to have Islamists as friends than as enemies.

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