A. Junaidi, Jakarta
Presidential and vice presidential candidates Amien Rais and
Siswono Yudohusodo, who were nominated by the National Mandate Party
(PAN) to contest the coming presidential election, are considered an
This assessment perhaps conforms with the results of the April 5
legislative election, in which PAN secured seven million votes and
ended in sixth position of the 24 election contestants.
On Friday, six minor political parties -- the Marhaenisme
Indonesian National Party (PNI Marhaenisme), Social Democratic Labor
Party (PBSD), Freedom Bull National Party (PNBK), Indonesian
Democratic Vanguard Party (PPDI), Indonesian Unity Party (PSI) and
the Reform Star Party (PBR) -- announced their support for the
The six parties gained a combined total of only 6.8 million votes
in the legislative election.
These rather bleak statistics defy the pair's strengths in
politics, business and bureaucracy.
Born on Apr. 26, 1944, in the Central Java town, Surakarta, Amien
was known as a strong critic of former president Soeharto. Days
before Soeharto's forced resignation in May 1998, Amien, along with
student demonstrators, demanded, in the building that houses the
People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), that president Soeharto step
Since then, Amien, who got his PhD in political science from
Chicago University, was often referred to as the "locomotive of the
After the 1999 general election, Amien, who was a professor in
international relations at Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University,
set up the "Central Axis", a loose group of Islamic politicians,
which managed to install Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid as president
through unusual political maneuvers. Gus Dur defeated Megawati
Soekarnoputri, the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of
Struggle (PDI-P), which had garnered the largest number of votes in
the general election.
Two years later, Amien, who was former chairman of the country's
second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, was instrumental
in the "impeachment" of Gus Dur.
Leaders of Muhammadiyah, which claims to have 30 million members,
said earlier they would support Amien, but many doubt that the
organization's followers will follow suit.
Amien's running mate, Siswono, was known as a noted property
businessman before he was appointed minister of public housing by
president Soeharto in 1988 and transmigration minister in 1993.
The graduate of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) is
considered by many observers and friends as a clean businessman and
Siswono, born on July 4, 1943, in Long Iram, East Kalimantan, is
chairman of the Indonesian Farmers and Fishermens Association
Many place their hopes in Amien's vision of reform and Siswono's
nationalist view and experience in business and bureaucracy, despite
their small political machine.