Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jokowi and Prabowo woo Muslim voters, visit NU, Muhammadiyah

The two strongest contenders in the 2014 presidential election — popular Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and chief patron of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto — each made overtures to the country’s two largest Muslim organizations on Wednesday, apparently to attract the support of Muslim voters.

Jokowi, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), attended a closed-door meeting with leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), including chairman Said Aqil Siradj, at the organization’s headquarters in Central Jakarta to discuss the organization’s upcoming national assembly scheduled for May, one month before the presidential election.

NU treasurer Bina Suhendra, who was present at the meeting, said in the meeting NU leaders formally asked Jokowi to open the assembly, an honor that had been performed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in recent years.

Bina said that the presence of Jokowi, who is currently the most popular politician in the country, would be of great importance to the Muslim organization.

Prabowo meanwhile paid a visit to Muhammadiyah headquarters in Central Jakarta, located only three kilometers away from that of NU.

During his meeting with leaders of the organization, Prabowo talked about his presidential campaign platform.

Prabowo later had a 30-minute closed-door meeting with Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin.

Prabowo, however, denied that his visit was intended to curry support for his presidential bid.

“It is important for us to talk with other relevant organizations or figures before making an important [party] decision,” he said.

Prabowo said that no political deals were made during the meeting as Muhammadiyah was a social and cultural organization that would not be allowed to endorse a candidate for president.

Jokowi and Prabowo are currently the most popular presidential hopefuls, according to a number of pollsters.

In a survey released by the news daily Kompas on Wednesday, Jokowi has a commanding advantage over other potential candidates, with 43.5 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him.

Prabowo came in a distant second with 11.1 percent.

Golkar Party chairman and the party’s presidential candidate Aburizal Bakrie came in third with 9.2 percent.

People’s Conscience (Hanura) Party chairman Gen. (ret) Wiranto was the choice of 6.3 percent while former president and PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri came in fifth with 6.1 percent.

The survey found that 20.7 percent of the 1,400 respondents had yet to make up their mind.

Prabowo, whose Gerindra Party supported Jokowi’s gubernatorial run last year, shrugged off the results of the survey.

“In a democracy, it is the people who vote, not pollsters,” he said.

Although Jokowi’s popularity continues to skyrocket, the PDI-P has yet to officially declare whether it will nominate the former Surakarta mayor as its presidential candidate.

Megawati has previously said that the PDI-P would wait until after the legislative election before announcing its nomination.

Responding to questions about his soaring popularity on Wednesday, Jokowi waxed poetic.

“Just like the rain and water, everything will flow and eventually end in estuaries,” he said.

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