Vote for Arafat, Hitler, Martin Luter

Two names on the ballot less than a two-hour drive from Jakarta are bound to raise eyebrows, if not necessarily the vote count for the Democratic Party.

One is Mr Yasser Arafat, who is running for a local assembly seat in the West Java city of Bekasi; the other is Mr Hitler Nababan, a candidate in Karawang regency.

And then there is a candidate named Martin Luter, named after the 16th-century Christian reformist leader Martin Luther, running for a local assembly seat in North Sumatra.

The Bekasi-born Mr Yasser, 31, says he has no links to the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation other than his grandfather who greatly admired him.

But the Democratic candidate considers his Arab namesake an inspiration to him to be a dedicated representative of his people.

And he hopes his unusual name will help him come polling day. "People may remember my name more easily," he tells The Sunday Times.

Mr Hitler Nababan, a 40-year-old moneylender, is used to people looking at him in disbelief whenever he introduces himself.

"I always get a 'wow' from voters I visit," he says. "They ask to see my ID."

The Aceh-born candidate, who moved to Karawang in 1994, says he was named after the Nazi dictator by his father, who found the German leader charismatic despite his notoriety as the man responsible for the deaths of millions during World War II.

"I've always explained I'm a different kind of Hitler. I've never killed people. I'm not a Nazi," he tells The Sunday Times. "Hitler is history. I'm the new Hitler who will make another history."

Surprisingly, there is more than one Hitler on Indonesia's ballots this general election. Another candidate who goes by the one-word name, Hitler, is running for a seat in West Sumatra on the Gerindra ticket.

Over in Karo regency, North Sumatra, Mr Luter is running as a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P). The Indonesian politician was among 31 assemblymen in Karo who successfully pushed out the Karo district chief for alleged misappropriation of funds.

Party leaders are at pains to say that their candidates should be judged on their merits, not their catchy names.

Democratic Party secretary-general Nana Kustara said that names like Hitler and Yasser Arafat do not do much anyway for the candidates in places like Karawang.

"Those names do not resonate here," he said. "Common Sundanese names like 'Asep' are more likely to."


This article was published on April 6 in The Straits Times.

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