Asia

Bakrie looks set to retain Golkar chairman’s post

Bakrie looks set to retain Golkar chairman’s post
Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie (right), seen here with President Widodo, already has about 70 per cent of the vote to retain leadership of Indonesia’s second-largest political party. Photo: Reuters
Published: 4:02 AM, December 2, 2014

NUSA DUA (BALI) — Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie is set to fend off challengers to the leadership of Indonesia’s second-largest political party, dealing a blow to President Joko Widodo’s efforts to coax its lawmakers into his coalition.

Patriarch of a family with businesses from coal to property, Mr Bakrie plans a party election this week in Bali and already has about 70 per cent of the vote, said Mr Ahmadi Noor Supit, head of the event’s organising committee. Deputy chairman Agung Laksono, one of six other candidates for leader, has rejected that process and wants a meeting next month instead, raising the risk of political turbulence in South-east Asia’s largest economy.

Mr Widodo faces an opposition-led Parliament that may hinder his policy plans. Mr Bakrie has shown no interest in joining the government, with the opposition alliance led by failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto defying expectations of a post-election collapse. The selection of former Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla as Mr Widodo’s Vice-President has not enticed the party to switch sides.

“Despite being outside the government, there are strategic positions that Golkar has been able to obtain, such as the Speaker of the House,” said Mr Supit. “Who says ARB has failed?” he said, referring to Mr Bakrie by his initials.

Mr Bakrie pulled out of the race for President after leading Golkar to a second-place finish in April’s parliamentary vote, with the opposition grouping now holding a two-third majority in the legislature and the senior roles in both chambers.

Golkar, the party of former dictator Suharto that has never before been in opposition, began meeting yesterday. The meeting will run until Thursday. Golkar will vote for the party’s chairman on Tuesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Setya Novanto said, reported Detik.com. The leadership will be decided in a vote that includes regional and national chapters of the party, rather than individual members. Mr Bakrie has the support of 400 regional branches, giving him a majority, Mr Supit said.

The leadership meeting had been expected to be held later next year.

Other contenders for the chairmanship include Mr Laksono, previously the Coordinating Minister for Welfare, and Mr Airlangga Hartarto, a member of Golkar’s central executive council, Mr Supit said.

Former Industry Minister M S Hidayat, previously a candidate, is now supporting Mr Bakrie. “I am willing to withdraw myself because Pak Aburizal promised me to concentrate on building the party instead of using his position to run for the presidency,” said Mr Hidayat.

A group of Golkar politicians, including Mr Laksono, have formed an alliance and proposed a leadership contest be held in Jakarta next month. Supporters of Mr Bakrie and those backing Mr Laksono scuffled at a party meeting on Nov 25, with several people injured, The Jakarta Post reported.

Mr Bakrie’s opponents have individual ambitions and it will be difficult for them to respond cohesively after Mr Bakrie called the earlier-than-expected leadership vote, said Ms Shinta Puspasari, an analyst at Jakarta-based security firm Concord Consulting.

“It seems he’s still going to lead Golkar for the next five years,” said Ms Puspasari. With an opposition run by Mr Bakrie and Mr Prabowo, Mr Widodo will need to show his programmes are positive for the people to win lawmaker support, she said. AGENCIES