Megawati teams up with Islamists for presidency

Agence France Presse

Jakarta, May 6:

President Megawati Sukarnoputri today teamed up with the head of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation in an attempt to re-energise her flagging campaign for a second term.

Megawati announced that Hasyim Muzadi, head of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) which claims 40 million followers, would be her vice-presidential running-mate for the July 5 election.

The president faces a tough fight, especially after her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lost the April 5 parliamentary poll to the Golkar party of former dictator Suharto.

PDI-P’s support slumped from 34 per cent in 1999 to just 18.5 per cent.

Megawati hopes Muzadi will bring millions of Islamic votes with him to supplement her own party’s secular-nationalist appeal.

To stress the nationalist connection she made her announcement at the site where her father president Sukarno proclaimed independence from the Dutch in 1945.

Muzadi said he hoped his pairing with Megawati would end division between nationalists and Islamists but stressed his moderate credentials.

“I have worked to present Islam that is moderate to the world and praise be to Allah that the idea of moderation is beginning to be understood and accepted,” he said.

A book given to guests describes Megawati as unambitious, humble and peace-loving.

Millions of former PDI-P supporters who thought otherwise turned on April 5 to the new Democrat party founded by her personable ex-security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He is way ahead of her as preferred president in opinion polls. Another ex-general, former military chief Wiranto, is Golkar’s candidate. Ex-president Abdurrahman Wahid could also torpedo the Megawati-Muzadi team.

Wahid founded the NU-linked National Awakening Party and remains influential in NU. He has refused to endorse Muzadi’s candidacy. Azyumardi Azra, rector of the State Islamic University, said Muzadi would hurt rather than help the president.

“I think the NU members will split into a number of camps,” Azra said.

He said Megawati could also suffer if Wahid’s brother Solahuddin Wahid, NU’s deputy leader, teams up with Wiranto and gets the ex-president’s support.