JAKARTA - More members of the Democratic Party have expressed their opposition to the reelection of former president Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono as party chairman ahead of the party's national congress later this month.
A number of leaders of the party's regional branches, who were dismissed from their positions by the party's central board, declared on Thursday the formation of an opposition caucus and called on all party members to challenge what they called the domination of elites.
The group, calling itself the Caucus of the Democratic Party's Saviors (KPPD), launched attacks on a number of the party's elite figures who had been using Yudhoyono's leadership to maintain control of the party, with the former president's reelection likely maintaining their power over the party.
"Certain elites can put pressure on members at the lower level," Dendy Santoso, former head of the party's regional branch in Pasuruan regency, East Java, said on Thursday during the caucus' declaration in Central Jakarta.
Heru Sunaryanto, former Democratic Party regional branch head from Blitar regency in East Java, said the party had suffered a setback because of "Yudhoyono's cronies".
He said one such crony was executive chairman Syariefuddin Hasan, who is known as a staunch supporter of Yudhoyono.
Yudhoyono was appointed party chairman during the Democratic Party's extraordinary congress in 2013, replacing Anas Urbaningrum, who was forced to resign after he was named a graft suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The caucus said the Democratic Party could suffer further from a "cult of personality" if members failed to stop Yudhoyono from being reelected.
Yudhoyono pledged that he would not seek reelection when his tenure came to an end this year.
"I will only serve as chairman for two years at the most. After that, a regular party congress will choose a definitive chairman to replace me," Yudhoyono said during his speech at the party congress in Bali in 2013.
A copy of a letter instructing all party provincial and regional leaders to vote for Yudhoyono in the upcoming Democratic Party congress has been circulating among party members in an apparent attempt to suppress opposition within the party.
"Local party members have been intimidated into supporting Yudhoyono in the upcoming national congress. Otherwise, they will lose their votes in the party leadership election," said Irwan Purbowo, former head of the party's regional branch in Salatiga, Central Java.
Dendy, Heru and Irwan were among dozens of local party leaders who were reportedly dismissed by the Democratic Party central board for various reasons.
The caucus claims at least 161 local party leaders have been dismissed from their positions.
In the upcoming party congress, 34 leaders of party provincial branches and more than 500 party regional branch leaders are expected to cast their votes in the chairmanship race at the party's third national congress, scheduled between May 11 and 13 in Surabaya, East Java.
Syariefuddin has responded to critics of Yudhoyono, saying that the party still needs the former president in the long run.
"If there are members disagreeing with [the reelection of] SBY, they want to see the party's victory in the 2019 general elections," he recently said.
He stressed that any success achieved by the party could not be separated from the role Yudhoyono had played in the party and that the party's ability to secure 10.19 per cent of the vote in the 2014 legislative election was due to Yudhoyono.