All smiles, the bitter feud is over. Agung Laksono, coordinating minister Luhut Pandjaitan, confirmed chairman Aburizal Bakrie, and former leader Jusuf Kalla (from left)
Partyforumseasia: On December 10, 2014, we were asking whether Golkar was close to a suicide by internal power struggle (Link here). Party leader Aburizal Bakrie was more than disappointed with the result of the presidential election on July 9, 2014. After he could not be the top candidate himself or promote another Golkar candidate, his political gamble to support Gerindra leader Prabowo Subianto failed. Neither his Golkar party nor many million $$ from his family business could prevent the victory of Joko Widodo.
Against instinct and inclination of the Golkar leadership, Bakrie managed to prevent the party from switching from the losing Prabowo camp to the winners around the new president. This was splitting the party, leading to rival factions, competing party conventions in 2014 and the election of two party leaders, Bakrie being supported by the Prabowo camp and Agung Laksono by the faction open to president Jokowi. The rivalry was brought to the courts, producing different rulings, until on October 20th, 2015 the Supreme Court finally decided that Bakrie is the rightful chairman, one day after the 51st anniversary of Golkar.
Factional strife is absolutely normal in political parties but the visibility of this one has certainly affected the image of Golkar among Indonesia’s voters on top of their image problem after decades of being the political vehicle for president Suharto‘s authoritarian rule. Compromise, though, is the essence of democracy, and it was high time to give up the sulking attitude of the election loser. Indonesia has enough problems to solve and supporting the Jokowi administration is certainly more patriotic than obstructing him in parliament. Golkar’s 91 seats will make it much easier for the president to speed up legislation.
Affiliation of the parties in the Parliament so far(Wikipedia):
The Golkar factions and their leaders will now have to organize the practical part of their reconciliation and bring the party back to unity. But one may wonder whether the urge to save the party from suicide has been boosted by more concrete advantages. So far it is not clear that calls for a cabinet reshuffle will result in any ministerial posts for the party leaders. But it is not necessary to be a political cynic to expect that in due course…
Partyforumseasia: Indonesia’s traditional shadow play (wayang kulit) has often been used to describe the political scene. The public can only see what happens on the screen and everything behind the scene remains hidden. The art of party politics tries to hide all the backroom deals and unpopular internal quarrels in order to entertain the target groups with clean-cut but often enough illusory pictures.
What happens these days with the Golkar party seems to be a sort of reverse wayang kulit. The power struggle and factional fight is all too visible in front of the screen and its ambitious chairman Abrizal Bakrie (ARB) can no longer hold the party together.
Golkar (or Functional Groups), formed as an instrument of president Suharto’s infamous guided democracy, was the ruling party since 1973 and coalition partner under president Yudhoyono in the democratic era. This long participation in government also means that many members have enjoyed the spoils of power and are not very amused that their chairman is keeping them now in the opposition.
Aburizal Bakrie is a rather controversial leader. Part of a family business conglomerate, he was considered the richest Indonesian in 2007 by Forbes, but does not appear on the Forbes Asia List any more. His brother was a big sponsor of presidential candidate Prabowo whose defeat spoiled Bakrie’s ambition for the vice presidency after he could not get the presidential nomination of his own party. Golkar is still the second biggest party but many blame its vote plunge from 22 to 14 per cent on the chairman.
Bakrie has probably punched above his real weight by calling a convention ahead of schedule in Bali, outmaneuvering possible rivals by sacking them, and changing the party rules to be re-elected by acclamation instead of the usual secret ballots. This authoritarian and undemocratic style may well fan the discontent of party members further.
Meantime, only a week after the Bali convention and with endorsement of former chairman and now vice president Jusuf Kalla, Bakrie’s critics have organized an alternative party congress and elected former deputy chairman Agung Laksono, who is also leader of the so-called “Presidium of the Golkar Party’s Saviors” as Golkar Chairman. Since two competing chairmen are not foreseen in the party’s constitution, both camps have submitted their election results to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights for confirmation.
Whether the ministry finds a Solomonic solution or not, the party split is too obvious and Golkar dangerously at the crossroads.