Golkar Party secretary general Idrus Marham, left, and attorney Yusril Ihza Mahendra, right, answer journalists’ questions outside the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/Reno Esnir)

Analysis: Golkar’s Flip Could Leave KMP in Tatters


MARCH 25, 2015

Jakarta. The Red-White Coalition could be reduced to only two parties soon, political analysts say, as the biggest party in the opposition bloc shows signs that it may be planning to switch sides in favor of President Joko Widodo’s administration.

Ray Rangkuti, director of the Indonesian Civil Society Circle (LIMA), said the bloc’s dwindling power is further evidenced by a split inside the opposition, known as KMP, over the plan to launch a parliamentary inquiry against Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly.

Only the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) are unified so far in their call to launch an inquiry against Yasonna.

“This means that in the future, the KMP will only consist of Gerindra and the PKS,” Ray said on Wednesday. “The PKS and Gerindra are the only ones that have supported [the inquiry] as House [of Representatives] factions. They have vested interests in keeping Golkar in the opposition.”

The two parties have accused Yasonna of abusing his authority by recognizing Agung Laksono, who has repeatedly stated his intention to join Joko’s ruling coalition, as the legitimate leader of the Golkar Party, a member of the Red-White Coalition.

Ray noted that only a few lawmakers in Golkar, particularly those remaining loyal to Agung’s rival Aburizal Bakrie, support the inquiry, while the majority have switched to Agung’s side.

'Unproductive' inquiry

Meanwhile the Democratic Party, the third-biggest party in the opposition bloc after Golkar and Gerindra, signaled on Wednesday that it would not endorse the planned inquiry.

“We have not yet decided [our official stance] but we will not join the inquiry,” Democratic Party deputy secretary general Saan Mustopa said. “We will not meddle in the affairs of other parties. Hopefully there won’t be any Democratic Party members signing up [for the petition to support the inquiry].”

The National Mandate Party (PAN), the Red-White Coalition’s fourth-biggest party, has also decided not to officially support the inquiry.

“The inquiry will simply create new problems and make the political climate unproductive,” PAN national leadership board chairman Viva Yoga Mauladi said.

But Viva pointed out that his party would not stop individual PAN lawmakers from supporting the inquiry.

PAN veteran lawmaker Teguh Juwarno said despite his party and the Democrats opting out of the inquiry, the Red-White Coalition was still solid. The different stances “will not dissolve the KMP,” he said.

Agung vs. Aburizal

Golkar split in December, with one faction throwing its support behind Agung and the other remaining loyal to Aburizal, 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.

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 being re-elected for a second term. A rival congress held in Ancol, North Jakarta, in early December, saw the anti-Aburizal party members elect Agung as chief.

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 has decided to accept the ruling issued by the two judges in favor of Agung.

With Golkar’s 91 seats in the House, the dispute proved to be of great interest for both the ruling coalition and the opposition bloc. The switch could mean that for the first time since Joko took office last year, his ruling coalition will have a majority of 298 seats over the opposition bloc’s 262.

Aside from securing the position of speaker in the national legislature, Golkar also has members chairing several House oversight commissions.

'No good governance'

Legal expert Asep Warlan Yusuf of Bandung’s Parahyangan University said Yasonna should have allowed both sides to exhaust their legal options before taking sides, calling his decision to endorse Agung’s reign “rushed” and “political.”

Asep noted that Yasonna made a similar decision on the United Development Party (PPP), which also became embroiled in a similar power struggle between the pro-government Muhammad Romahurmuziy and KMP supporter Djan Faridz.

Yasonna endorsed Romahurmuziy’s claim over the PPP chairmanship, which the State Administrative Court (PTUN) later overturned.

“This shows that [Yasonna’s] decision is legally problematic,” he said. “Yasonna’s decisions [on Golkar and the PPP] are too political and cause many problems. I think the president should reprimand him.”

Aburizal is suing the government in both the Central Jakarta District Court and in the State Administrative Court.

“We have lodged a complaint against the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, whose decision in favor of the other faction is contrary to the principles of good governance,” Aburizal’s lawyer Yusril Ihza Mahendra told Reuters.

He added that Aburizal should remain chairman of Golkar — which had backed Prabowo in last year’s election — until a verdict was announced.

Agung told local media last week that the party planned to join Joko’s coalition without expecting cabinet seats in return.

Cabinet reshuffle?

Vice President Jusuf Kalla told Reuters last week that the government was planning a cabinet reshuffle in the next month, but declined to comment on whether Golkar would be included in the new lineup.

Analysts say Joko will be under pressure to include Golkar, the political vehicle of former authoritarian ruler Suharto, in any new cabinet.

“Jokowi already has patrons to deal with in his coalition and the addition of Golkar would mean another patron. And he has to balance power between them,” political analyst Tobias Basuki said, using the president’s nickname.

“This could potentially create new problems for [Joko].”

Agung threatened to replace Aburizal loyalists in the legislature, including Ade Komarudin, the current chairman of the Golkar caucus, and his secretary general, Bambang Soesatyo.

Agung said his camp had informed the House on Monday that Ade and Bambang were being demoted from their positions as caucus chairman and secretary, and that they would be replaced by Agus Gumiwang and Fayakhun Andriadi, respectively.

Agung’s secretary general, Zainudin Amali, said on Tuesday that 61 Golkar legislators had decided to switch their allegiances to Agung’s camp.

'Trying to be persuasive'

Agus Gumiwang said he has given Ade and Bambang until Sunday to clear out their desks.

“We are trying to be persuasive. But if [Ade and Bambang] refuse to comply, then we will resort to other means according to laws and procedures. The building has its security details, we have police officers guarding the complex. We can utilize them if [Ade and Bambang] won’t budge,” Agus said.

“If they are not happy with the minister’s decision then go ahead! Make their legal moves! But by law, a government decision is in effect until there is a decision reversing it.”

Agung’s national leadership board chairman Leo Nababan said that Bambang and Ade could even be recalled from their positions as lawmakers if they refused to accept the reshuffle and provoked other Golkar lawmakers.

“I am warning Ade Komarudin and Bambang Soesatyo. If they want to fall, don’t force others to go down with them. Don’t force us to make a recall,” he said.

Arbi Sanit, a political observer from the University of Indonesia (UI), said now that the government has officially recognized Agung’s chairmanship of the party, the House leaders have no choice but to accept the reshuffle.

But House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon of Gerindra thinks otherwise, saying that he will not accept the reshuffle.

“The dispute [inside Golkar] is not over, the [legal] process is still ongoing. If we endorse [the reshuffle] when the dispute itself is not finalized there will be new problems,” he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters