JAKARTA: Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri chose yesterday the leader of the country's largest Muslim group as the vice presidential candidate on her ticket in the July 5 presidential race.
The choice of Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the moderate, 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), is seen as an effort to boost Megawati's waning popularity after her party, the secular Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), lost significant ground in the April 5 parliamentary elections.
“Hasyim Muzadi has expressed his willingness to be part of a presidential and vice presidential duet,” Megawati said in a speech at a park in central Jakarta where her father and Indonesia's first president Sukarno proclaimed the country's independence in 1945.
Megawati faces a tough battle in the July 5 presidential election against her former security minister and ex-general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been topping opinion polls and former military chief Wiranto who is the nominee of the Gokar party that did best in the parliamentary elections.
Muzadi was upbeat during his turn at the lectern.
“Nahdlatul Ulama has no plan to set up a religious state but it wants to see religious values shine across this country,” the cleric said, adding that Megawati first courted him six months ago.
“The combination of me and Megawati will unite 'freedom' and 'God is Greatest'. The two should not be on different sides,” said Muzadi, referring to the respective rallying cries of the nationalist and Islamic camps.
Before the announcement, PDI-P deputy chairman Roy Janis said the choice of Muzadi was aimed at bringing solid Muslim credentials to Megawati's re-election bid.
About 148 million voters will choose a president in Indonesia's first direct presidential election.
Recent opinion polls show Megawati lags significantly behind her former chief security minister, Yudhoyono, who resigned last March and is the candidate of the fledgling Democrat Party. – Reuters
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