Nahdliyins’ comeback galvanizes PKB’s voter turnout

pkb kampanye-pkbAndi Abdussalam

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID — The National Awakening Party (PKB), which won 4.94 percent votes and ranked seventh in the 2009 legislative election, surprisingly rose to the fifth position and secured 9.5 percent of the votes in Wednesday’s election.

The increase in PKB’s vote turnover to about 92 percent raised questions about the strategies PKB had adopted, which earned it a position higher than that of the 2009 legislative election. It even overshadowed the ruling Democratic Party (PD) in the fourth place, based on different unofficial quick vote counts.

Mahfud MD, Jusuf Kalla and Rhoma Irama

Mahfud MD, Jusuf Kalla and Rhoma Irama

Some said that the PKB was able to gain more votes due to the popularity of artist Ahmad Dani and self-styled Dangdut singer King Rhoma Irama, as well as popular figures such as former Constitutional Court chairman Mahfud MD and former vice president Jusuf Kalla.

However, executive director of the Indo Barometer research institute Mohammad Qodari said the dominant factor that helped the PKB galvanize its voter turnout was the support of Nahdliyins (members of the Indonesian largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama/NU).

Nahdlatul Ulama, which was estimated to have members of about 35 to 40 million, was the Muslim organization instrumental to the birth of the PKB.

According to Qodari, the nearly 100 percent increase in the vote gained by the PKB in Wednesday’s legislative election was due to the support of the Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organization (NU).

“The increase in the votes gained by the PKB was not caused by Rhoma Irama but by the support of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). The survey result on the electability of the ‘Dangdut’ singer was low,” Mohammand Qodari said here on Thursday.

Rhoma Irama

Rhoma Irama

Meanwhile, communications expert Hendri Satrio of the Paramadina University said the PKB successfully picked influential figures as its vote getter, such as Rhoma Irama, Mahfud MD and Ahmad Dani. This made the PKB appear different. PKB’s people’s convention also contributed to its image, he added.

“If the Islamic parties established a central team, the PKB will most likely lead it. Possibly, the PKB’s strategy won the heart of some supporters so that the PDIP’s expectation to reap significant votes through what it called the “Jokowi” effect was not completely successful,” he added referring to the presidential candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).

“Jokowi effect” referred to the expectation that the nomination as a presidential hopeful of popular Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, will earn PDIP many votes in the legislative elections.

“PKB had built an effective political communication strategy by involving key figures,” Hendri Satrio said here on Thursday.

However, Executive Director of the Indo Barometer Mohammad Qodari said the achievement of the PKB in attaining 9.5 percent of the votes in Wednesday’s legislative elections, from about 5 percent in the 2009 elections, indicated that “Nahdliyins” had returned to the PKB under the leadership of Muhaimin Iskandar.

The votes of NU members split during the “odd” period between those who supported Muhaimin and those who supported Abdurrahman Wahid, better known as Gus Dur.

The Indo Barometer executive director noted that the NU had played an important role in the development of the PKB, because it was the NU that gave birth to the PKB during the leadership of Abdurrahman Wahid.

“NU was the country’s largest Muslim organization because about 30 percent of the Indonesian Muslims were NU members,” Qodari said.

Qodari was of the view that the return of the Nahdliyins to channel their political aspirations to the PKB had caused the increase in PKB’s vote gains, which almost reached 100 percent. This was due to the efforts of its general chairman Muhaimin Iskandar, who was able to maximize his party’s existing potential.

According to Qodari, Muhaimin was prepared to accommodate figures such as Rhoma Irama and Ahmad Dani during its campaigns and provide a post for the chief of the Lion Air airline, Rusdi Kirana, who had financial support. It also benefited from the popularity of former member of the Constitutional Court Mahfud MD and former vice president Jusuf Kalla.

“PKB also benefited from the popularity of the Chairman of NU Executive Board (PBNU) Said Aqil Siradj, who appeared in PKB’s official campaign advertisements,” Qodari said.

Referring to the results of Kompas’ Exit Polls analysis on the result of political parties’ vote gains, he said the Nahdliyin support played a dominant role in contributing to the PKB’s vote gain increase.

Muhaimin Iskandar and Rudi Kirana

Muhaimin Iskandar and Rudi Kirana

Greg Fealy, a senior lecturer in Indonesian politics at the College of Asia and the Pacific in the Australian National University, said in an article, “The puzzle of Rusdi Kirana and Islamic Politics,” the most intriguing factor in the party’s turnaround was the involvement of Rusdi Kirana, a Chinese non-Muslim and the chief of Indonesia’s fastest-growing airline Lion Air.

Fealy, whose article was quoted in the INSIDE STORY published by the Swinburn Institute for social research of Australia, said Rusdi joined the party with great fanfare in January 2014 claiming that he was a friend of the late Gus Dur and an admirer of PKB’s brand of religious pluralism.

Rusdi was immediately appointed deputy chairman of the party and set about using his substantial wealth and connections for the party’s electoral advantage, Fealy wrote.

He said Rusdi appeared also to be using the PKB as a means to gain bragging rights over one of his rivals, the media magnate Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who joined ex-general Wiranto’s Hanura Party and quickly became its vice-presidential candidate.

Fealy pointed out that Rusdi had made no secret in PKB circles of his determination to see the PKB win more votes than Hanura, something the polls suggest will be easily achieved.

That’s why PKB success was phenomenal and extraordinary.

According to communications expert Hendri Satrio, PKB’s achievement in the 2014 legislative elections was extraordinary and caused the image of other Islamic parties to shine again.

Republika OL/Antara
Fri, 11 April 2014



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