[Updated at 10:25 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, to add background and further comment]
Jakarta. The State Administrative Court on Wednesday temporarily suspended the Justice Ministry’s decision to endorse a pro-government faction inside the Golkar Party until the court makes its final ruling.
The court, known as PTUN, is hearing a lawsuit lodged by incumbent Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie against the ministry’s recent decision to recognize his rival Agung Laksono as the legitimate leader of Indonesia’s oldest party.
The court “grants a motion to suspend the implementation of all objects in contention as demanded by the plaintiff,” Judge Teguh Satya Bhakti, who presided over the case, said in his preliminary ruling.
Judge Teguh also “orders the suspension of the implementation of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights’ letter [recognizing Agung’s claim to the chairmanship] until [the court] makes its final ruling.”
The court also ordered Golkar executives under Agung “not to make any decisions” while the case is being heard.
Aburizal supporters immediately erupted in jubilation over the decision while some prostrated themselves in front of the judges.
“The truth is finally revealed” said Bambang Soesatyo, Aburizal’s treasurer and the secretary general the Golkar caucus in the House of Representatives.
But Fayakhun Andriadi of Agung’s camp said the preliminary ruling would not deter his camp’s decision to have Bambang replaced as a caucus official.
Agung’s camp is also seeking to replace caucus chairman Ade Komarudin.
Ade and Bambang are slated to be replaced by Agus Gumiwang and Fayakhun, respectively.
“We cannot make any more decisions before the court makes a final ruling,” Fayakhun said after the ruling.
“But [Gumiwang] was appointed as caucus chairman before this preliminary ruling. So Agus Gumiwang’s leadership over the caucus is still legitimate.”
Ade however made a different argument, saying that Gumiwang’s leadership has not been officially recognized by the House.
“I urge [Agung’s camp] to respect the law. Honor this preliminary ruling,” he said.
Golkar split in December, with one faction throwing its support behind Agung Laksono and the other remaining loyal to Aburizal Bakrie, 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 had accepted the ruling issued by the two judges in favor of Agung.
The rift inside the party reached a new height on Monday as a dramatic scene played out in the party’s House caucus office.
Incumbent caucus officials, including Bambang, reportedly locked the office, located on the 12th floor of the House’s Nusantara I building, forcing their successors to call in House security officials and a locksmith to open the doors.
The incumbents barricaded the doors with furniture, while other entrances were replaced with drywall.
The new caucus officials were finally able to enter the office.
Abdul Fickar Hadjar, a legal expert from Trisakti University, said the rift would only prolong following the court’s decision.
Golkar could be heading toward another schism once the court issues its final ruling, Fickar added, with the losing side likely to form its own party.
Previous splits inside Golkar have given birth to many political parties, most notably the Democratic Party, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the National Democrat Party (NasDem).
Meanwhile, other experts said if the State Administrative Court officially annulled the ministry’s decision Golkar would remain in a perpetual state of conflict with no side seemingly willing to admit defeat.
An annulment, would also mean Golkar has to sit out several regional elections this year. The Ministry of Home Affairs previously said that there are 204 governors, district heads and mayors across the country whose terms end this year.
The ministry scheduled these elections to be held simultaneously.
According to the General Elections Commission (KPU), candidates must register their bids by July with the elections to be held in December.
But gubernatorial, district head and mayoral candidates need the written consent of their respective parties’ national leadership board before they can register their bids to the local elections committee.
The preliminary ruling is also emboldening calls to launch an inquiry against Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly.
“This shows his decision [to recognize Agung’s reign] is troublesome,” Bambang argued. “This [ruling] will strengthen our argumentation to launch an inquiry.”
So far only Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) have officially declared their support for the inquiry.