JAKARTA. A deep split has emerged in Indonesia’s second-largest party Golkar after its chairman, Aburizal Bakrie who is seeking re-election, decided to bring forward its party congress from January to today.
But a key faction backed by Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who is Bakrie’s predecessor, not only wants to stick to the original January timing, it also wants a new man in charge.
Some party officials are fearing the worst.
“If they really go ahead with the congress on Sunday, it would pave the way for Golkar to break up,” Andi Sinulingga, Golkar’s campaign chief during the legislative elections in April, told The Sunday Times.
Bakrie did not get a collective nod from party leaders as required by the party Constitution, he added.
Golkar, the country’s second- largest party, has never been in the opposition until Bakrie decided to back former general Prabowo Subianto in July’s presidential election, which was won by Joko Widodo.
His decision and Prabowo’s loss caused much unhappiness within the party ranks.
Things got worse after Bakrie failed in negotiations with Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle to bring Golkar aboard the ruling coalition.
“I’ve told (Bakrie) directly that many think he has failed in Golkar,” the vice-president was reported as saying in The Jakarta Post.
Still, Golkar wields a lot of power. It is the largest party in the so-called opposition Red- White Coalition, which also consists of Prabowo’s Gerindra and other parties.
The coalition controls a strategic 52 per cent of the seats in Parliament, which means it can block any government reforms that it does not agree with. In fact, opposition MPs are now gathering support to thwart Joko’s decision two weeks ago to raise subsidised fuel prices.
But the faction led by deputy chairman Agung Laksono wants to align Golkar with the ruling coalition, which controls only 44 per cent of parliamentary seats, by securing the party leadership.
Newspaper reports said the government has promised Golkar government posts if Bakrie is ousted.
Bakrie, who is seeking another five years as party chairman, unilaterally decided to hold the four-day party congress in Bali earlier.
Many believe his sudden decision to bring forward the congress from January is meant to catch party rivals off guard, thereby improving his re-election chances.
“Aburizal Bakrie is confident he will win if the congress is held now because he knows his contenders are not ready,” said Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a researcher at the Indonesian Science Institute.
Attending the congress will be about 540 heads of Golkar provincial and district branches, whose support Bakrie has been courting.
The Laksono faction is boycotting the congress.
Said Andi: “Golkar is experiencing the bleakest time in its history where party leaders are not able to manage internal conflicts that we previously faced and always managed to overcome.”
Ikrar said holding one congress today and another in January would create confusion and weaken the party.
But Bakrie loyalists, in dismissing the suggestion, insist that differences can be settled after the congress.
Coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno had said the police should not issue a permit for the congress as it may inconvenience tourists in Bali.