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Retreat by labour activists leaves Labour Party short

Kompas - August 28, 2008

Hadi Santoso, Jakarta – The retreat of key cadres to other parties has left the Labour Party overwhelmed in its attempts to compose a list of legislative candidates.

The Labour Party, which will be able to contest the 2009 general elections after winning a challenge against the General Elections Commission (KPU) at the State Administrative court, is short of legislative candidates.

“Quite frankly we are overwhelmed because many of our cadre have switched [parties]. Those that have stood firm are trade union and non-government organisation activists. Meanwhile those from our intellectual and financial base have all left”, explained Labour Party general chairperson Mochtar Pakpahan when speaking with journalists on Thursday August 28.

Labour Party (sic) cadre who have switched political vehicles in order to get into Senayan (national parliament) include among others, Dita Indah Sari who has fled to the Star Reform Party (PBR), Robert Anton who joined the Indonesian Workers and Employers Party (PPPI) and Idin Rosidin who has switched to the Grand Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra Party).

According to Pakpahan, the move by party cadre to other parties is quite usual, because it is the right of all individuals to make a political choice. Conversely however, Pakpahan said that there is the problem of pragmatism as a flow on from the KPU’s failure to allow the Labour Parties to contest the 2009 elections on July 7.

Because of this therefore, he feels that his party has been treated poorly by the KPU. “Because the KPU did not allow the Labour Party to get through they [the activists] fled. It is this poor treatment by the KPU that we are felling [the effects of]”, added Pakpahan.

The KPU has given the labour party until August 31 to put together a list of legislative candidates and Pakpahan hopes that in the final three days the party would be able to meet a minimum target of 75 percent.

The shift of a number of party cadres not only resulted in the Labour Party finding it difficult to put together a list of legislative candidates. Pakpahan also conceded that they would be forced to revise their vote target. If the party had been registered with the KPU several months ago, these former labour activists would have ensured that the party would have garnered 10-15 percent of the vote.

“It clearly had an influence. Then, our list of legislative candidates was almost 100 percent, and was comprised primarily of activists, intellectuals and other finance sources from middle- to upper-businesspeople, so we were positive. Now we aren’t so game. If God blesses us, we will be very grateful just to pass the electoral threshold”, concluded the man who always appears in public wearing a peci (black velvet cap worn by Muslim men).

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]

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