In Golkar Rift, a PDI-P Bid to Control Joko
Jakarta. A faction of Indonesia’s oldest political party affiliated with the opposition claims the rift tearing it apart is being engineered by the pro-government coalition to tighten its control over an increasingly independent president.
Bambang Soesatyo, a Golkar Party legislator and outspoken supporter of the faction chaired by tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, said on Sunday that it was clear that the Awesome Indonesia Coalition (KIH), led by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), was growing increasingly frustrated with President Joko Widodo’s growing refusal to toe its line, and was thus seeking to pry Golkar from the opposition to countervail Joko’s executive powers with its own control of the House of Representatives.
Bambang said that Joko’s distancing himself from the PDI-P was “clearly reflected in PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri’s speech at the opening of the PDI-P congress in Bali” last week.
A visibly agitated Megawati told the thousands of party faithful in attendance that Joko, as a PDI-P member, “must toe the party line,” and reminded everyone that it was thanks to her “grace” that he had even been nominated to run for president last year.
“She repeatedly emphasized that legislators, ministers and even the president are members of the party and must obey the party’s regulations and platforms,” Bambang said.
He said the PDI-P and its coalition partners no longer held a strong sway over the president, who he claimed was getting closer to the opposition Red-White Coalition (KMP), which holds the majority of House seats thanks to Golkar, the biggest party in the bloc.
With Golkar’s 91 seats in the House, a switch to the KIH would for the first time give the pro-Joko coalition a majority of House seats, with 298 to the KMP’s 262. The current balance favors the KMP, at 353 to 207.
Bambang said it was clear that, at the House level, the KMP had proved far more accommodating to the president’s policy initiatives than his own KIH, and cited the endorsement late last year of the 2015 state budget.
“The KIH at that time tried to drag out the deliberations, but they were powerless because the KMP was unified in helping the president and the vice president prioritize the public’s needs by endorsing the budget on time,” he said.
The KIH has also clashed with Joko on the president’s choice of police chief nominee. Joko initially proposed Budi Gunawan, a police general known to be cozy with Megawati, but withdrew his candidacy following a public outcry over Budi’s alleged corruption. In response, the KIH legislators at the House made it clear that they would not vet a replacement candidate until the president explained his reason for dropping Budi — only to be drowned out by the KMP parties.
With Golkar’s schism — in which Aburizal’s camp is siding firmly with the KMP and the rival faction led by Agung Laksono aligning itself with the PDI-P — the KIH has seized on a chance to wrest control of the House from the opposition, and thereby try to win back some authority over the president, Bambang said.
“It’s very easy to draw a conclusion as to what has motivated this divide-and-conquer practice, and that is greed for full control of the State Palace,” he said. “This includes controlling the president and forcing him to act as a party servant, instead of the people’s servant.”
“Why is it so hard for them to get the president to bow to them? Because they’re not as strong at the House as the KMP, and lately the relationship between the president and the KMP has become closer,” he added.
However, officials from Agung’s camp deny that the faction has cut a deal with the PDI-P to ally Golkar to the KIH.
“It’s not right at all to accuse the [KIH] of being behind what is an internal Golkar conflict,” said Andi Sinulingga, the head of the youth wing of Agung’s camp. “That kind of accusation is what you’ll hear from a Golkar member who refuses to look at their own faults and instead tries to pin the blame on a scapegoat.”
Chronology of a crisis
Golkar is experiencing the worst crisis in its 50-year history, its rock-solid reputation for unity unraveling before last year’s elections. Long-simmering tensions within the party, fueled by dissatisfaction at Aburizal’s helmsmanship of the party and poor showings at the ballot box, resulted in Indonesia’s once dominant political machine splitting in two last December.
Agung’s camp blamed Aburizal for the party’s weaker-than-expected result in last April’s legislative elections as well as its failure, for the first time in its history, to nominate a presidential or vice presidential candidate in the July presidential election.
Aburizal instead ended up endorsing the candidacy of Prabowo Subianto, who went on to lose to Joko. Aburizal was later re-elected in a party congress in Bali in December, which critics say was rigged from the outset. Days later, they held a rival congress in Ancol, North Jakarta, at which they elected Agung their chairman. Both sides agreed to settle their differences through the party’s internal tribunal. However, the tribunal returned a split decision, with two of the four judges ruling in favor of Agung and the other two saying the matter should be settled in court.
Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, a PDI-P member whose office is responsible for registering political parties, interpreted the split ruling as an endorsement of Agung, and duly issued a decree recognizing his leadership of Golkar. Aburizal’s camp, however, won a legal injunction against that decree and are now awaiting a final court ruling in their lawsuit against the legitimacy of the Ancol congress and its outcome.
Source: The Jakarta Globe