Cracks in Golkar – call for party chief’s removal

CRACKS within Indonesia's Golkar party over its support for presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto are showing, with members calling for party chairman Aburizal Bakrie to be removed before his term ends next year.

On Thursday, a group of younger members called on Mr Bakrie to accept the results of quick counts that showed Jakarta governor Joko Widodo as the election winner.

Yesterday, party founder Suhardiman said he had lost confidence in Mr Bakrie's leadership, while senior party member Zainal Bintang called for an extraordinary congress in September, claiming support from two-thirds of the provincial and district branches.

But Mr Bakrie told reporters that there had been no official request for an early congress, saying it could be proposed only by the executive board. "Not a single board member has done so."

The dissenting calls come as both Mr Joko and Mr Prabowo claim to have won the presidential election based on quick counts by different polling agencies.

The credible record of the outfits that backed Mr Joko may have played a part in the breaking of ranks.

But even prior to that, exit polls conducted during Wednesday's election showed a split in Golkar support: Over 40 per cent of those who voted Golkar in the April legislative elections backed Mr Joko, even though the party is supposed to have thrown in its lot with Mr Prabowo.

Mr Bakrie's decision to support Mr Prabowo in late May dismayed many in the party, especially as Mr Joko's running mate Jusuf Kalla was once a Golkar chairman.

The coalition backing Mr Joko commands 207 out of 560 seats, or 37 per cent, of the incoming Parliament. Should Golkar with its 91 seats, second only to Mr Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P), switch sides, it would give the PDI-P-led government 53 per cent of the seats.

PDI-P leaders welcomed reports of a Golkar shift, but stressed that this should not be in return for any deals.

Golkar can be a stabilising force in Parliament, party strategist Indra Piliang told The Straits Times.

"Otherwise there could be deadlock, which the country doesn't want to see happen."

Political analyst Ari Dwipayana of Gadjah Mada University said the call for an early party congress would be hard to resist, given the degree of dissent.

"The situation within Golkar is tumultuous," Golkar MP Nusron Wahid told The Straits Times.

"We need to evaluate Golkar's failure under the current leadership in this year's elections, Mr Bakrie's failure to run for president, and his failure to pick the right coalition."

Golkar members say possible candidates for party chairman include Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat and Coordinating Welfare Minister Agung Laksono.

Asked about the talk of Golkar backing Mr Joko, or Jokowi as he is also known, Mr Agung told reporters that this was possible as Golkar had always committed itself to helping the government of the day. "If Jokowi wins, yes, we back Jokowi," he said.

This article was first published on July 12, 2014.
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