News Focus - Awaiting another "Batubara" in Indonesian VP history

Bogor, W Java (ANTARA News) - Ustadz Abdul Somad Batubara, a popular preacher with millions of followers across Indonesia, has frequently been mentioned as the most potential running mate of Chief Patron of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Prabowo Subianto.

At a recent meeting of ulemas and national figures supporting the Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Councils Fatwa (GNPF) Movement, his name was recommended to be Subianto`s vice presidential candidate, along with the Prosperous Justice Party`s (PKS) executive Salim Segaf al-Jufri.

In response to the decision made by the ulemas and figures representing different parts of Indonesia at their meeting in Jakarta from July 27 to 29, 2018, the preacher, commonly known as UAS, has shown his reluctance, arguing that he is not an appropriate figure for the vice presidential candidacy.

He then bluntly asked the attendants of his preaching at the Semarang-based Sultan Agung Islamic University, held a day after the ulemas and national figures made the decision, to pray for him.

"Please pray for Somad to remain `ustadz` (preacher) till he dies. Please pray for me to able to keep focusing on education and `dakwah` (Islamic propagation)."

"For the ulemas and more than a thousand `santri` (students of Islamic boarding schools) who have recommended (my name), we bestow them with our sincere prayer," he stated in his preach that was also published on Youtube.

The refusal of Somad, who obtained his undergraduate degree from Egypt`s Al Azhar University and his MA degree from Daar al-Hadits Al-Hassania Institute, Morocco, triggered positive and negative response among those wanting a regime change in 2019.

For instance, Fahri Hamzah, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, was relieved and thankful after knowing that UAS had refused the recommendation. He argued that UAS has escaped a trap of political choice that can cause him to pick a wrong path.

"Please, Ustadz, remain a lantern because not many can speak bluntly. The spokesmen of truth and sincerity are now very scarce due to the fake masks of the world," he wrote in his personnel twitter account on July 29.

On the other hand, as revealed in https://twitter.com/maspiyuuu, lots of netizens kept attempting to persuade UAS to change his mind by saying "yes" to the ulemas` recommendation with a strong belief that he can help increase Subianto`s electability with the Almighty`s blessings.

A netizen launched a hashtag #NKRIMemanggilUAS (the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia Calls UAS). Several others have even announced their willingness to donate money and become volunteers for the Prabowo-UAS pair.

The netizens and many others` efforts to persuade Somad have so far failed to change his mind. However, in real politics, there is no impossibility. It is uncertain if Somad, who was born in Asahan District, North Sumatra Province, on May 18, 1977, might change his mind.

If he finally changes his mind by accepting the ulemas` recommendation, and Subianto camp`s coalition parties approve him as Subianto`s running mate, he will pave the way for a possible return of a vice president from a Batak Muslim familial background of Batubara clan after Adam Malik.

Born in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra Province, on July 22, 1917, Malik, widely known in Indonesia as one of the founders of Antara news agency as well as former foreign minister and vice president during the Soeharto era, originated from the Batubara clan.

As of Saturday, or the first day of registration process for the presidential and vice presidential pairs of Indonesia`s 2019 election that the General Election Commission (KPU) has officially opened, the people are yet to know the appointed running mates of both Jokowi and Subianto.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla forecast that the presidential and vice presidential candidate pairs for the 2019 election will register themselves as the closing day draws to a close on Aug 10.

Kalla himself still awaits a decision from the Constitutional Court`s (MK`s) panel of judges about the judicial review of the 2017 Elections Law`s chapter on the requirements for presidential and vice presidential candidates. The court`s decision will determine his political steps in future.

Jokowi has decided to compete in next year`s presidential race.

For this purpose, he has gained support from the leaders of the People`s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Golkar Party, National Awakening Party (PKB), Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), National Democrat Party (Nasdem), and the People`s Conscience Party (Hanura).

The five coalition party leaders have even given him the leeway to pick up the most potential vice presidential candidate. Kalla`s name is very much likely in President Joko Widodo (Jokowi`s) pocket because he is believed to be able to strengthen the incumbent president`s electability.

Many political analysts have predicted that Subianto may again become Jokowi`s toughest rival in the 2019 presidential race. He has, so far, been viewed as the only figure, whose name has officially been supported by the leaders of his coalition parties, including the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party (PAN).

He has also won the Democratic Party leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono`s official support for becoming the coalition parties` presidential candidate. In the 2014 presidential election, the Democratic Party did not coalesce with Gerindra, PKS, and PAN.

Along with its coalition parties, the Subianto camp has been attempting to look for a credible figure to be the vice presidential candidate. Whether or not Batubara will change his mind remains a possibility until Subianto announces the name of his running mate prior to Aug 10.

 

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