'Banyan Party' roots for the long game

'Banyan Party' roots for the long game

The banyan tree has one of the longest lifespans, and specimens dating back over a hundred years are regarded as sacred across the archipelago.

It is also the symbol of Golkar, Indonesia's oldest major political party and its largest.

As such, the "Banyan Party" is looking not just to regain its former strength in Parliament at elections on April 9 next year but casting its sights beyond then.

At a national working meeting over the weekend, party leaders unveiled grand plans for a prosperous, welfare-oriented Indonesia in 2045, when the country marks a century of independence.

These include per capita gross domestic product of over US$40,000 (S$50,000), from $5,000 now; 45 per cent of a population cohort having higher education, from 20 per cent today; and just 1 to 2 per cent of people living below the poverty rate that year, down from 11 per cent.

The party founded by army officers in 1964 to challenge a growing Communist party became a key pillar of the New Order of President Suharto, but its fortunes slid following Suharto's downfall in 1998.

It revived and came up tops in the 2004 parliamentary election, but fared its worst ever in 2009 with just 14.5 per cent of the popular vote, losing ground to the Democrat Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

It is now tipped for a comeback, with the Democrats hurt by corruption cases and widespread public disenchantment with the current administration.

"Golkar has gained momentum from the Democrat Party's worsening performance," party strategist Indra Piliang, who heads Golkar's research and development unit, told The Straits Times.

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