More Islamic parties hit by graft scandals ahead of polls

Haeril Halim, Nurfika Osman and Margareth Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Thu, February 13 2014, 8:10 AM

The electoral prospects of the nation’s official Islamic parties have taken a turn for the worse with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) now investigating two separate graft scandals that may implicate the leaderships of the United Development Party (PPP) and the Crescent Star Party (PBB).

Along with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), whose former leader was jailed for 16 years for his role in the infamous beef graft scandal last year, the PPP and the PBB are the only three parties that are officially based on Islam.

With less than two months to go until the legislative election, the KPK announced on Tuesday that it had issued a travel ban on PBB chairman MS Kaban in connection with a graft scandal centering on the 2007 procurement of an integrated radio communications system (SKRT) at the Forestry Ministry. Kaban was forestry minister from 2004 until 2009.

The investigation into the case was revived recently following the arrest of graft fugitive Anggoro Widjojo, the owner of PT Masaro Radiokom, who was accused of bribing several lawmakers and ministry officials to secure the Rp 180 billion (US$14.9 million) project.

Previously, the antigraft body said it had launched an investigation into alleged corruption in the management of the haj pilgrimage, which is under the supervision of the Religious Affairs Ministry, now led by PPP chairman and presidential hopeful Suryadharma Ali.

The KPK is focusing on the procurement of haj services in 2012 and 2013, which are reported to have been worth more than Rp 100 billion. KPK spokesman Johan Budi said his office would summons Suryadharma should the investigators feel the need to question him.

Executive director of Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, said the scandals would make it even more difficult for the PPP and PBB to pass the legislative threshold, as the two parties were currently struggling to improve their electability.

He said that before the two investigations made headlines recently, the level of support for the PPP was around 1 percent and PBB’s support had stabilized at around 4-5 percent.

The Legislative Election Law sets the threshold at 3.5 percent.

“Not only will the PPP and PBB suffer but all Islamic-based parties will suffer greatly from the two recent investigations ahead of the general election,” he said, adding that while the nationalist parties were also entangled in arguably bigger graft scandals, voters would punish the Islamic parties more severely as they expected better from them.

PBB chief patron Yusril Ihza Mahendra, however, said that the KPK’s investigation into Kaban would not affect the electability of the party nor disrupt the activity of its legislative candidates during the upcoming election. “The [travel ban] is a normal investigative procedure and it will not have any affect on the party. We are going to continue our work ahead of the election,” Yusril told The Jakarta Post.

PPP deputy secretary-general Arwani Thomafi was also confident the KPK probe would not hurt his party. “I believe the public know well that the Religious Affairs Ministry is not related to the PPP. Moreover, Pak Suryadharma has already said he will support the KPK’s investigation,” Arwani said on Wednesday.

“We are confident that none of our members are involved in any corruption whatsoever, and we will work hard to convince our voters nationwide about this,” Arwani added.

Last year, the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) found that if the general election were to take place at the time of the survey, the PKS, the PBB and the PPP, as well as the National Mandate Party (PAN) and National Awakening Party (PKB) which are regarded as appealing to Muslim voters, would all get less than 5 percent of the vote each and collectively would only garner 21.1 percent of the popular vote, lower than the combined 30 percent they received in the 2009 election.


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