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New party 'will not clone Golkar'

Straits Times - December 15, 1998

Susan Sim, Jakarta – Indonesia's "politically homeless" middle-class cynics, ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs, indigenous minorities and the formerly powerful will soon have their own political party – the country's 115th.

It will be driven primarily by several prominent defectors from the ruling Golkar party, including three former Suharto ministers – General Edi Sudrajat, Mr Siswono Yudohusodo and Mr Hayono Isman.

The Justice and Unity Party (Pasti) promises to provide the intellectual ballast to the two most popular mass-based opposition parties – Ms Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party and Mr Abdurrahman Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB).

The new party does not see itself winning more than 5 per cent of the popular vote in June with a platform encompassing all the standard pledges of reformasi – justice, anti-discrimination, meritocracy, cultural sensitiveness, regional autonomy, civic society and human rights.

It is thus positioning itself, insiders say, as a junior coalition partner that can act as a moderating influence on, and bridge to, the civilian and military elites who might be less predisposed to accept Ms Megawati or PKB's nominal leader, Mr Motari Abdul Jalil.

At the same time, the former Suharto ministers who pulled out of Golkar know they can only hope to influence the shape of the next government through larger partners since time will constrain their efforts to replicate, or more likely, poach Golkar's extensive network. But the new party will not be "cloning Golkar", former Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja told The Straits Times.

There will be many disgruntled former Golkar cadres in it and will include an interesting cross-section of relatively young people – the successful, newly politically-aware, 40-something baby-boomers.

These include Mr Anton Supit, a footwear manufacturer of ethnic Chinese origin who chairs an anti-discrimination group called Gandi formed by several prominent young Chinese entrepreneurs in association with the country's largest Islamic organisation, Mr Wahid's Nahdlatul Ulama.

"This is a party trying to fill the void essentially within the Indonesian middle class and the adat-based local communities, the indigenous peoples, as well as serve the main minorities unserved in Indonesian politics now ... the politically homeless people with no one to turn to," said Mr Sarwono.

The outspoken critic will not join the new party, but will continue to drive its "moral movement" counterpart gauging the pulse of the country, and act as linkman to the other political parties and civic groups.