Polygamous Indonesia politicians may lose female votes

Wed Apr 1, 2009 7:34am EDT
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By Sunanda Creagh

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Polygamy is turning into an election issue among some women voters in officially secular, predominantly Muslim Indonesia, after a feminist group listed several Islamist politicians alleged to have more than one wife.

The list could potentially hurt the election chances of politicians from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamist party positioning itself as a potential ally or coalition partner for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ahead of the April 9 parliamentary elections and July 8 presidential poll.

Indonesia allows polygamy but a man can only get court approval to take a second wife if his first wife agrees, or if she is disabled or cannot have children.

The practice is frowned on by many educated, middle class women.

"Women pay attention to this issue," said Yeni Rosa Damayanti, coordinator of the Indonesian Women's Solidarity which compiled the list.

Several politicians from the PKS and other small Islamist parties feature on the list, but party leaders were quick to dismiss it as a smear tactic.

"This is part of a black campaign," said PKS chairman Tifatul Sembiring, who is named as one of the polygamous candidates, along with PKS party officials Didin Amaruddin, Anis Matta, and Zulkieflimansyah.

Sembiring declined to say if he and the other three PKS members were in polygamous marriages.   Continued...