Indonesia's Grand Old Party May Lose Stronghold


MARCH 14, 2015

Jakarta. With no apparent resolution in sight, the prolonged rifts plaguing two major political parties could cause them to miss this year’s regional elections, activists warned on Friday.

The United Development Party (PPP) and the Golkar Party have been split with rivaling claims over their chairmanships.

Golkar, the second-biggest party in the House of Representatives, is now divided into two camps, those supporting the chairmanship of former minister Agung Laksono and those loyal to the incumbent chairman, Aburizal Bakrie, another former minister.

Meanwhile the PPP’s chairmanship is contested between former minister Djan Faridz and the party’s former secretary Muhammad Romahurmuziy.

Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher Abdullah Dahlan said the ongoing rifts have had a huge impact on the two parties’ future.

“Particularly with the upcoming regional elections,” he said. “It has implications on the parties at a local level.”

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.  But with camps inside Golkar and the PPP yet to be legally recognized by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, candidates from both parties might have to sit out this regional elections until their disputes are resolved.

“It all comes down to the ability for political elites [at the parties’ national level] to compromise,” another ICW researcher Donal Fariz said.

But this is unlikely to happen with political elites seemingly reluctant to abandon their leadership aspirations. Golkar may be the party to most suffer from its recent spat. The party has huge backing at the regional level and many incumbent governors, district heads and mayors are Golkar members.

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 elections in these areas to be held simultaneously.

According to the General Elections Commission (KPU), candidates must register their bids by July with the elections will be held in December.

Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly said on Friday that the upcoming election is one of the reasons his office was quick to recognize Romahurmuziy’s claim to the PPP chairmanship.  But the State Administrative Court overturned this decision based on a challenge lodged by Djan’s camp.

Yasonna is also planning to recognize Agung’s claim over Golkar’s chairmanship, a move that could draw a similar suit by Aburizal’s supporters.

“I think it is better for [Golkar] to stop fighting because there will be problems later during the regional elections,” the minister said. “Just create a truce [temporarily] and then settle [the dispute] later in 2016 to determine who the real chairman is.”

Aburizal’s Golkar had earlier asked the KPU to accept consent letters signed by himself, saying as the incumbent, his leadership was still technically recognized by the government until his definitive successor was named.

Meanwhile Romahurmuziy’s PPP said the KPU should accept consent letters signed by him, saying that despite the court ruling his chairmanship is still technically recognized by the government. However KPU chairman Hadar Nafis Gumay said these are one-sided arguments.

“These are their own claims. We will ask the Justice Ministry to decide which camps are officially recognized. Not just for Golkar and PPP, but all 12 political parties,” he said on Tuesday.

The splits, particularly inside Golkar, spelled good news for the Democratic Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) both with equally large strongholds on the regional level.

Democratic Party politician Nur Hidayat said on Wednesday that in light of the ongoing disputes, his party has boosted its target.

“We aim big this election,” he said. “If possible we can win in all provinces, districts and cities.”