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Muslim party draws biggest election crowd JAKARTA - A conservative Muslim party has drawn the biggest crowd yet in Indonesia's parliamentary election campaign, as an estimated 100,000-plus supporters massed at a Jakarta stadium on Tuesday to hear its anti-corruption message. Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) leader Hidayat Nur Wahid, wearing a white Muslim shirt, black pants and white Muslim cap, told an enthusiastic crowd the PKS would "fight for every level of society's prosperity, and the strategy is by eradicating corruption".
Although few expect PKS to rank among the top two or three parties in the April 5 ballot, it could more than triple its share of the vote from the last election to six percent or more, thanks to organisational strengths like those that helped it pack the stadium. In Indonesia's fractured and fluid politics, where 24 parties are competing, that performance may be enough to give the party an influential voice when the election is over, and for it to be courted to join other parties in a coalition for the separate presidential election due on July 5.
The PKS is one of several parties in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, which explicitly or implicitly endorse Islamic Sharia law and other conservative positions. But most Indonesian Muslims are moderates, and the PKS campaign stresses its anti-corruption credentials and integrity, not its Islamic roots. It promises to tackle Indonesia's endemic graft and boost an economy struggling to keep pace with a growing labour force.
"Election 2004 is an important moment because a reform agenda can be presented after this election," said Hidayat. He claimed the party had drawn half a million supporters clad in its white colours to Jakarta on Tuesday, including many unable to get into the stadium. "Because of them, Jakarta became white and that's our preliminary commitment to whiten Indonesia," he told reporters. Until Tuesday's PKS rally, the biggest stadium crowd estimate had been between 30,000 and 40,000 for President Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P).
Megawati was on a whirlwind campaign tour on Tuesday taking her to Central Java, the heartland of her support; East Kalimantan in the Indonesian part of Borneo; and the resort of island of Bali, another centre of her popularity. She urged supporters to help PDI-P win a majority on Monday, singing along with the crowd at one point and stressing voting practicalities more than policy. Most polls suggest her PDI-P will come in second in the parliamentary vote to the Golkar Party that was once the political vehicle of former strongman president Suharto.
But analysts say voters like those attracted to PKS are disappointed with what they view as PDI-P's failure to vigorously follow through on anti-corruption promises, and associate Golkar with the rampant corruption of the Suharto era. "We were disappointed, but we hope that with (PKS) we don't have to be disappointed any more," said unemployed 36-year-old Merry, wearing a white party T-shirt and handing out its flags. "If they win, I hope I can get a new job. It's time for a new Indonesia," she said.



Posted in Elections @ 30 March 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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