Jakarta. After the government recognized his claim to the Golkar Party chairmanship, Agung Laksono has wasted no time eliminating those legislators remaining loyal to his rival, Aburizal Bakrie.
Lawmaker Ade Komarudin, an Aburizal loyalist, said on Tuesday that the five-party opposition bloc — known as the Red-White Coalition (KMP) — agreed to launch an inquiry into Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly’s decision to recognize Agung as Golkar chairman, suspecting his move was linked to Agung’s repeated intention to pull Golkar away from the opposition camp.
“In one or two days we will forward [the petition to launch an inquiry] to the House of Representatives [DPR] leaders,” Ade said.
The Red-White Coalition, he said, also agreed to reject President Joko Widodo’s arguments in his pick for National Police chief Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, saying that Joko needs to first explain why he dropped his earlier pick for the post, Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan.
However, Ade was quick to point out that the coalition was not suggesting that Badrodin was not a good candidate.
“We are asking the president to fix the letter sent to the House. [Joko] must be clear why he didn’t inaugurate Budi Gunawan,” he said.
Budi’s nomination was met with massive public condemnation when he was named a graft suspect just days after the nomination was announced.
The Red-White Coalition has argued that the House had unanimously agreed to endorse Budi as police chief and that his suspect status was later revoked by the South Jakarta District Court.
Joko has said he decided to drop Budi’s nomination due to the public outcry.
Political experts however predicted that the House, long considered one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, would use the matter as a political bargaining tool in the internal Golkar dispute.
Golkar split in December, with one faction throwing its support behind Agung and the other remaining loyal to Aburizal, the incumbent chairman.
Agung has criticized Aburizal for the party’s poor result in last April’s legislative elections as well as his support of former general Prabowo Subianto, who eventually lost the presidential race to Joko Widodo.
However, Aburizal refused to back down from his re-election bid, staging a national congress in Bali in November.
The congress, which his rivals consider a sham, saw Aburizal re-elected for a second term. A rival congress held in Ancol, North Jakarta, saw anti-Aburizal party members elect Agung as chief in early December.
Both sides agreed to settle the dispute through the party’s internal tribunal. But the tribunal issued a split decision, with two of the four judges ruling in favor of Agung, while the other two said that the dispute should be settled by a court.
The government has decided to accept the ruling issued by the two judges in favor of Agung.
With Golkar’s 91 seats in the House, the dispute proved to be of great interest for both the ruling coalition and the opposition bloc. Golkar is the biggest party in the Red-White Coalition.
The switch could mean that for the first time since Joko took office last year, his ruling coalition will have a majority of 298 seats over the opposition bloc’s 262.
Golkar, aside from securing the House speaker position, also has members chairing several House oversight commissions.
Agung threatened to replace Aburizal loyalists in the legislature, including Ade, the current Golkar caucus chairman and his secretary general Bambang Soesatyo.
Zainudin Amali, Agung’s secretary general, said on Tuesday that 61 Golkar legislators have decided to switch their allegiance to Agung’s camp.
“There are 91 [Golkar] lawmakers [in the House] and it is confirmed that 61 have decided to join us,” Zainudin said on Tuesday.
Agung said his camp had informed the House on Monday that Ade and Bambang were being demoted from their positions as caucus chairman and secretary, and that they would be replaced by Agus Gumiwang and Fayakhun Andriadi, respectively.
Agung said the House leaders, who are all members of the Red-White Coalition, will have no reason to refuse the changes.
“We have been officially recognized by the government. We are the legitimate [Golkar executives]. It is us who have the power to conduct a reshuffle,” he said.
Arbi Sanit, a political observer from the University of Indonesia (UI), confirmed Agung’s statement, saying now that the government has officially recognized his chairmanship of the party, the House leaders have no choice but to accept the reshuffle.
But Arman Salam of survey group the Strategic Research Circle (Rilis) warned that a massive reshuffle in Golkar’s House caucus might be perceived by the public as “retaliation.”
“It could be a blunder [for Agung]. Aburizal loyalists both at the legislature and in the regions will fight back,” he said.
Agung denied that he was seeking to punish Aburizal loyalists, saying that his camp has only resorted to “persuasion.”
“We are confident that 100 percent [of Golkar lawmakers] will eventually support us,” Agung said.
Aburizal is still trying to challenge the government’s decision to endorse Agung’s reign to the State Administrative Court, but Padjadjaran University political expert Muradi said that even if he succeeds it might too late.
“I think support for Aburizal will continue to dwindle. Because those who have been loyal to Aburizal don’t support him ideologically but for economic and political reasons,” he said.
Aburizal claimed to have the support of 32 of the 34 provincial chapters of Golkar, but with support for Agung continuing to grow, this too will change, said Asep Warlan Yusuf of Bandung’s Parahyangan University.
“Particularly with regional elections just around the corner,” Asep said.
“[Regional leaders] know the General Elections Commission [KPU] will only accept candidates from the officially recognized Golkar executive.
“So Agung has the upper hand.”