PKS chief's polygamy turns off voters

PKS chief's polygamy turns off voters

A political gimmick or not, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Anis Matta's decision to go public with his polygamous life does not seem to bode well for the Islamic party's future in the upcoming election.

A recent series of messages on Twitter posted by PKS deputy secretary-general Fahri Hamzah on Anis' polygamous life with his second wife Szilvia Fabula has instead further tarnished the party's image following the beef import graft case that implicated Anis' predecessor, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq.

A number of eligible voters in Jakarta said that messages on Twitter and a picture of Anis with his Hungarian wife that spread widely over social media outlets had made them unwilling to vote for the PKS.

"Showing off a polygamous life to the public is not a good branding strategy. This will further degrade the PKS' position in the political arena, in addition to the party's former chairman now being behind bars for committing graft," Dyah Pamela, an employee for a private company in Central Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post.

She said she had put the party on her own blacklist and she was firm on not voting for any person from the party.

Sophia Moeljono, a writer and movie enthusiast, echoed Dyah, saying that polygamy and corruption was a perfect recipe for losing supporters.

She said that in the wake of the beef import case, the party should have tried to repair its broken image to attract support instead of promoting the polygamous lifestyles of its members.

"As a woman, I'm also afraid that Anis showing his second wife is a campaign to show people that it is fine to have the same lifestyle, and that it could be a trend among the party's cadres and, perhaps, for everyone," she told the Post.

A similar opinion was also heard from Ma'arif, an entrepreneur who mostly travels between Jakarta and West Java on business. He said polygamy was not common in the country, despite the fact most Indonesian citizens were Muslims.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) political analyst Syamsuddin Haris said Anis' move had a negative impact on the PKS.

"Even though sharia law recognises polygamy, it's not something that can be accepted by many Muslims in the country because they tend to choose monogamous marriage. It will surely reduce the party's chances of gathering more votes in the election," Syamsuddin said.

He added this blunder would see those who wanted to vote for an Islamic party shift their support to the United Development Party (PPP), the National Mandate Party (PAN) or the National Awakening Party (PKB).

A survey released last year by the Indonesia Research Center (IRC) put the PKS in seventh position on a list of the most electable political parties. The survey found that the PKS would only receive 2.8 per cent of the vote if the legislative election was held at that time, far lower than the 7.99 per cent it secured in the 2009 election, making it the fourth largest faction in the House of Representatives.

Moreover, activist Defarina Djohan said polygamy was a barbaric tradition as it occurred before Islam came to the world.

"Arabic men used to marry hundreds of women at that time and then Islam came and reduced that practice by limiting the number to only four wives. The essence here is not only about the figure, but also fairness, because Islam emphasizes justice," Defarina said.

She also said women were smarter today and they would not support those who practiced polygamy.

"Women comprise 49 per cent of total voters, which is a significant portion. In addition to that, not all men support polygamy," she continued.

PKS deputy secretary-general Fahri refused to comment when contacted by the Post on Saturday, while chairman Anis did not answer calls.

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