Jakarta. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said on Tuesday that it would not officially recognize the leadership of Indonesia’s oldest party, as voted upon by its members during a recent national congress, since the government wishes to stay “neutral” in an ongoing dispute within the party.
Minister Yasonna Laoly said that the government would let the Golkar Party resolve their dispute internally or through legal recourse through the courts.
He added that his ministry can’t endorse the leadership voted in at Golkar’s national congress in Bali due to an ongoing dispute over its legitimacy, citing a 2011 law on political parties.
“Based on juridical aspects, facts and documents, we’ve concluded that there is still a dispute in which the ministry can’t intervene. Therefore, we regret that we can’t ratify [their process],” Yasonna said.
“We will leave it to the party’s internal mechanisms. If there’s still disagreement, then they can go to the court,” he said. “The government will remain as neutral as possible on this matter.”
The party has been split ever since incumbent chairman Aburizal Bakrie staged a national convention in Bali earlier this month. That congress reelected Aburizal, but rival Agung Laksono staged a shadow convention days later in Ancol, North Jakarta, at which he was decreed Golkar’s new leader.
On Dec. 8, Aburizal submitted his version of the party’s organizational structure to the Justice and Human Rights Ministry for the 2014-19 period. A week later, Agung filed in his own version.
“After examining its documents, the National Congress in Ancol is legitimate as a convention,” the minister said at the time. “The National Congress in Bali is also legitimate. For the sake of the party’s own interest, we ask Golkar to resolve their dispute internally.”
According to Yasonna, the ministry will temporarily recognize the previous Golkar organizational structure instead of any of the newly submitted versions.
“We’ll use the party’s old structure for now. Both conflicting sides are in that structure,” he said.
Legal and political experts were quick to applaud Yasonna’s decision not to recognize neither Aburizal or Agung’s reign saying that the government should maintain its neutrality on the matter.
“With this decision both disputing camps ... must resolve the conflict internally or through legal channels,” said Nico Hardjanto, political observer from think-tank the Populi Center.
Constitutional law expert Refly Harun agreed, saying that were the ministry to endorse one side at this point as the legitimate Golkar leader, as it did with the United Development Party (PPP), the internal conflict will be prolonged.
House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon also appreciated the minister’s decision. The conflict “is a party’s internal affair,” Fadli said. “By law, the government cannot intervene in a party’s internal affairs, which can only be resolved through an internal party tribunal mechanism,” the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) politician said.
Agung’s camp quickly staged a meeting on Tuesday immediately after the decision was aired.
“We appreciate the justice minister’s [decision] and the government for considering both conventions to be legitimate,” We hope our [party] elders and seniors can sit down together and look for the best solution,” said veteran Golkar politician Melchias Markus Mekeng, who was named as one of the leaders in Agung’s version of party structure.
Melchias said his camp has agreed that the best solution was to stage a third convention that can accommodate both sides, a call previously aired by a number of senior Golkar politicians.
Veteran legislator Hajriyanto Thohari is leading the call for the third convention, which would annul the results of both the Bali and Jakarta conventions.
Getting the opposing sides together and creating a united executive board would help end the schism that threatens to permanently tear apart arguably the most influential party in national politics, he said.
Since 2001, several senior Golkar politicians have gone on to form their own parties, particularly after losing their chairmanship bid, most notably the Democratic Party, the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), Gerindra and the National Democratic Party (NasDem).
But Bambang Soesatyo, one of the leaders in Aburizal’s party structure, disagreed with Yasonna’s decision, saying that there was no reason for the minister not to endorse Aburizal’s reign.
Yasonna’s decision “is in defiance of the law [on political parties] that provides seven days” maximum for the government to recognize a new party structure, he said.
“The minister’s decision is very different from the one on PPP. We see this as discrimination and we will challenge [the decision on Golkar] in court.”
Legal expert Refly, however, noted that the condition only applies “under normal circumstances.”
“If there is a split like this, the requirement does not apply. The minister has made the best decision for the current situation,” he said.
Political analyst Ari Dwiyapana with the University of Gadjah Mada contended that Agung’s camp had been more open to talks and reconciliation than Aburizal’s, adding that both sides must set their egos and political ambitions aside for a compromise.
Ari warned that the party was fast losing credibility among constituents because of the split, particularly since Aburizal and Agung have different political stances on key issues, including support for reinstating local elections for governors, mayors and district chiefs, as well as membership in the House majority opposition Red-White Coalition.
Idrus Marham, who supports Aburizal’s faction, said his side is open to reconciliation “as long as Agung’s camp recognizes the National Convention in Bali.”
Aburizal said he had instructed his executive chairman M.S. Hidayat and deputy Cicip Sutardjo to communicate with Agung’s camp toward formulating a solution.
“If the party’s tribunal cannot resolve [this], we are ready to go to court,” Aburizal said. “The most important thing is for Golkar to stick together. We must not break apart, because there are a lot of people looking to break Golkar into smaller pieces.”
Golkar advisory board chairman Akbar Tanjung said several senior politicians have become involved in the reconciliation negotiations. “First we are trying to create a [positive] climate that will help our efforts to reach a reconciliation,” he said.
Realistically, Akbar said, the dispute will be settled by September next year, and only after going to court. “Maybe in three to four months there will already be a court decision. Our hope is that [this] can be settled [out of court],” he said.