The NU As A Political Party
Following the recognition of Indonesian independence, a new party called Masyumi was established with the NU as a component of it. The NU leadership at the time had no political skills, and was awarded few influential cabinet positions, with the exception of chairman Wahid Hasyim, who was appointed religious affairs minister. The NU was unhappy with its lack of influence within Masyumi, especially after a decision at the 1949 party conference changed the party's religious council, on which the NU held several positions, into a powerless advisory body. Two years later, a dispute over the organization of the Haj pilgrimage led to Prime Minister Natsir's opposition to the reappointment of Hasyim as religious affairs minister in the next cabinet. In the ensuing cabinet crisis, the NU made a series of demands, including the retention of Hasyim, and threatened to leave Masyumi. On 5 April 1952, a few days after the announcement of a new cabinet without Hasyim, the NU decided in principle to leave Masyumi. Three months later it withdrew all its members from Masyumi councils, and on 30 August it established the Indonesian League of Muslims, comprising the NU, PSSI and a number of smaller organizations. It was chaired by Hasyim.
During the liberal democracy era (1950–1957), NU members served in a number of cabinet posts. In the first Ali Sastroamidjojo Cabinet, the NU held three seats, with Zainul Arifin appointed second deputy prime minister. However, following the fall of this cabinet, some NU members were opposed to the NU joining the new cabinet, to be formed by Burhanuddin Harahap Cabinet, believing that if he was unable to form a cabinet, the NU would be invited to try. It was finally pressured into participating, and was awarded the interior and religious affairs portfolios in the cabinet, which was sworn in on 12 August 1955.
On 29 September 1955, Indonesia held its first parliamentary elections. The NU came in third, with almost 7 million votes, 18.4% of the total, behind the Indonesian National Party and Masyumi. It was awarded 45 seats in the People's Representative Council, up from only 8 before the election. The NU was the largest party in its East Java base, and 85.6% of its vote came from Java. There was a clear division between Masyumi, representing outer-island, urban voters and the NU, representing the rural Javanese constituency. Three months later, elections were held for the Constitutional Assembly, which was tasked with drawing up a permanent constitution. The results were very similar, with the NU winning 91 of the 114 seats.
In the 1950s, the NU still wanted to see Indonesia become an Islamic state, and expressed its disapproval of a 1953 presidential speech in which Sukarno rejected this. Three years later, it also argued against Sukarno's "conception" that would eventually lead to the establishment of guided democracy, as this would mean PKI members sitting in the cabinet. On 2 March 1957, the Permesta rebellion broke out. Among its demands was the restoration of Mohammad Hatta to the vice-presidency. The NU supported these calls. Meanwhile, in the Constitutional Assembly, the NU joined Masyumi, the Indonesian Islamic Union Party (PSII), the Islamic Educators Association (Perti) and other parties to form the Islamic Block, which wanted Indonesian to become an Islamic state. The block made up 44.8% of total seats. However, with none of the blocks able to command a majority and push through the constitution it wanted, the assembly failed to agree and was dissolved by Sukarno in a decree on 5 July 1959 that also restored the original 1945 Constitution, which declared the state to be based on the Pancasila philosophy, not Islam.
In 1960, President Sukarno banned Masyumi for alleged involvement in the Permesta rebellion. However, the fundamentalist and compradore leadership of NU saw the pro-poor Communist Party of Indonesia, which was close to Sukarno, as an obstacle to its ambitions, and competed with it to win support from the poor. Five years later, the coup attempt by the 30 September Movement took place. The Indonesian Army blamed the PKI, and the NU youth wing, Ansor, participated in the subsequent widespread killings of suspected communists.
Following the deposing of Sukarno, the New Order regime under President Suharto held elections in 1971. Despite manipulation of the NU by the government, which caused it to lose much credibility, the NU managed to maintain its 18% share of the vote from the 1955 poll. However, in 1973, it was obliged to "fuse" into the new United Development Party (Indonesian: Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, PPP). The PPP came second, after the government sponsored Golkar organization in the elections of 1977 and 1982, but in 1984, the new NU chairman Abdurrahman Wahid (also known as Gus Dur), the son of Wahid Haschim, withdrew the NU from the PPP because of dissatisfaction with the NU's lack of influence. As a result, in the 1987 election, the PPP vote collapsed from 28% in 1982 to only 16%. From then on, it was expected that the NU would concentrate on religious and social activities.
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