Jakarta. The war between two rival factions of Indonesia’s oldest party reached a new height on Tuesday, with claims, accusations, lawsuits, threats and sanctions flying between the sides.
Since December, the Golkar Party has been split into two camps: those loyal to the incumbent chairman Aburizal Bakrie, and those supporting the pro-government Agung Laksono. Both sides claim to be the legitimate leaders of the party.
Agung’s Golkar on Tuesday submitted its party structure to the Justice Ministry. The minister, Yasonna Laoly, previously said his office would formally recognize Agung’s leadership claim.
Leo Nababan, an executive in Agung’s camp, said there are 337 names listed as national leadership board officials in the new Golkar hierarchy, up from an already massive 288 officials under Aburizal.
The new names were added to accommodate dozens of Aburizal loyalists who have switched sides following the minister’s intention to recognize Agung’s reign.
Leo added that the new recruits were given the deputy secretary general and deputy treasurer ranks, which have now swelled to 52 and 46 people, respectively.
“This is by order of Golkar’s internal tribunal to accommodate members from all sides,” Leo said.
Among the former Aburizal loyalists joining Agung’s camp are Mahyuddin and Airlangga Hartato, both formerly executives on Aburizal’s board.
Mahyuddin, who is also a deputy speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), said Aburizal should have accepted a recent ruling by the party’s internal tribunal and not prolonged the power struggle by drawing his own interpretations of that ruling.
Both sides agreed to settle their dispute through the party’s internal tribunal, which issued a decision last week.
But the tribunal issued a split decision, with two of the four judges ruling in favor of Agung, while the other two said the dispute should be settled by a court.
Aburizal’s ambition to rule Golkar for another five years, Mahyuddin said, will threaten stability inside the party, which had earlier faced a series of schisms.
“As members, we must respect the government’s decision. For as a member, Aburizal and Agung are the same. Why all the fuss?” he said.
Mahyudin also denied accusations by Aburizal loyalist Bambang Soesatyo who called those switching sides “political whores,” saying that he is not in it for a lucrative post.
“I would be happier being an adviser. If Agung wins, then I’d be Agung’s adviser. The same with Aburizal’s camp. Aburizal also wanted me as adviser,” he said.
Airlangga gave a similar response, saying that Aburizal’s refusal to reconcile with Agung had only damaged the party. “Let’s just focus on Golkar’s future,” he said.
Yunarto Wijaya, executive director of the think tank Charta Politika, said the exodus signaled Aburizal’s flagging power.
“Aburizal is not a strong figure like Mega, Prabowo or SBY,” he said, referring to Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri; Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairman Prabowo Subianto; and Democratic Party chairman and former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who all enjoy near-absolute control over their respective parties.
“Moreover, most politicians nowadays prefer to jump to the side that gives them the most benefits,” Yunarto said. “This is a disease suffered not only by Golkar but also by other parties. The absence of an ideology contributes greatly to this tendency. So it’s no surprise that some politicians have announced their move.”
Agung has criticized Aburizal for the party’s poor result in last April’s legislative elections as well as his support for Prabowo in the presidential race in July, which he lost to the PDI-P’s 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 considered 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.
Golkar politicians loyal to Aburizal reported Justice Minister Yasonna to the police on Tuesday for allegedly abusing his authority by siding with the rival camp in the party’s bitter leadership dispute.
With the minister already saying he would immediately validate Agung’s reign once he had submitted his party structure list, Aburizal has indicated he is not going down without a fight.
Idrus Marham, the secretary general of Aburizal’s faction, told reporters that his camp had reported Yasonna to the National Police for allegedly abusing his authority and meddling in Golkar’s internal affairs.
Idrus said the minister had also “twisted” the tribunal’s ruling to favor Agung.
“We hope the police will investigate the matter because obviously there have been attempts at twisting the statement of Professor Muladi, who as the head of the party tribunal has repeatedly said the tribunal would not side with any one camp,” Idrus said.
He said the dispute between the two camps could no longer be solved internally.
“This is an injustice and it has hurt democracy,” he declared.
Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said the police would accept the report, but suggested the Aburizal camp file a complaint with the State Administrative Court instead.
Aburizal loyalists at the House of Representatives, namely the current Golkar House caucus chairman Ade Komarudin and secretary general Bambang Soesatyo, have also petitioned to launch a parliamentary inquiry against the minister.
Agung’s camp responded by threatening to replace Ade and Bambang with Agus Gumiwang and Fayakhun Andriadi, respectively.
“The changes inside [the Golkar House caucus] will happen before the House sitting period begins [next Monday],” said Lawrence Siburian, one of Agung’s executives.
Agung, Lawrence said, might also recalled Golkar lawmakers who refuse to acknowledge his reign, including House Speaker Setya Novanto, who has so far refused to comment on which sides he is in.
“As long as [Setya] cooperates we will keep him. If not, then we are left with no choice but to replace him,” Lawrence said.
Aburizal responded to the planned reshuffle by rallying support from leaders of the party’s provincial chapters. On Monday leaders from 32 of 34 of Golkar’s provincial chapters gathered at Aburizal’s house in South Jakarta.
Bambang said the 32 regional party chiefs were all behind Aburizal. Aburizal on Monday dismissed the other two regional chapter chairmen and secretaries general who did not appear at Monday’s meeting.
Aburizal’s camp is also seeking a court ruling on the dispute, as recommended by two of the four tribunal judges, as well as challenging Yasonna’s planned endorsement for Agung’s reign to the State Administrative Court.
Political observer Cecep Hidayat from the University of Indonesia said the court ruling would be a test for Yasonna’s “credibility as a justice minister.”
Yasonna on Monday defended his plan to have Agung’s claim as Golkar’s chair formally recognized, saying that it had nothing to do with the fact that Agung had stated his intention to support President Joko Widodo.
The court has earlier overturned the minister’s decision to recognize pro-government Muhammad Romahurmuziy’s claim to the chairmanship of the United Development Party (PPP), based on a challenge lodged by his rival Djan Faridz, from the opposition coalition.
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