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 Golkar Party Chooses Leader

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BerichtOnderwerp: Golkar Party Chooses Leader   Golkar Party Chooses Leader Icon_minitimema 5 okt 2009 - 19:39

Fate of Indonesia's Golkar May Lie in the Balance as Party Chooses Leader

Hundreds of delegates from the provincial branches of the Golkar Party converged on Pekanbaru, Riau for a four-day national leadership meeting beginning Monday.

At issue is who will replace the outgoing chairman, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, criticized by many for the battering the party took in April’s legislative elections.

The congress comes at a critical juncture in Golkar’s long history. A number of analysts and critics have predicted the party chairmanship would go to the richest candidate rather than the most concerned about returning the party to its former glory.

The party overcame its ties to former President Suharto’s New Order regime to win the legislative elections in 2004. But it was soundly thumped by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and just edged out by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in April.

It is not expected that the frontrunners for the chairmanship, Aburizal Bakrie and perhaps Tommy Suharto, will be able to overcome their serious image problems to restore Golkar to its former governing role.

Tommy, getting a head start on his rival candidates, was the first to arrive in Pekanbaru on Sunday. He was greeted by Riau Governor Rusli Zaenal, the chairman of Golkar’s Riau branch, at the airport and reportedly had a one-hour closed-door meeting.

Rusli, who is known to back Bakrie, would not be drawn on whether Tommy sought to secure his support. “We were just talking about investment in this province,” Rusli said.

On Saturday, media mogul Surya Paloh, another candidate for the chairmanship, held a closed-door meeting in Bali to reaffirm the support of dozens of branch chairmen from across the country and to draft a strategy for the party congress.

The candidates may have their own interests in competing for the party’s No. 1 seat, which could prove beneficial to their business interests, give them influence over government policy and even provide a vehicle toward the 2014 presidential election.

Regardless, many observers believe Golkar is at a crossroads, and the path it chooses this week will determine whether it returns to a leadership role or becomes increasingly irrelevant. The party congress should prove the pivotal moment in determining its fate for the next five years, at least, they said.

The meeting is scheduled to be officially opened by Kalla this afternoon.

Which contender will win the race for the party’s top job?

Aburizal Bakrie
The controversial businessman and outgoing member of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet needs the political protection that the Golkar Party chair can provide. It is highly unlikely that the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster, which has been linked to Bakrie’s PT Lapindo Brantas, or his low approval ratings will hold much sway with Golkar branch chairmen, with critics saying that his deep pockets will have the most bearing on their decisions.

The clear frontrunner for the chairmanship, Bakrie has secured the support of former chairman Akbar Tanjung and Golkar deputy chairman Agung Laksono. He is also expected to align Golkar with Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party-led ruling coalition.

Yuddy Chrisnandi
The up-and-comer within Golkar promoted himself as a reformer within the struggling party but then sought the blessings of former dictator Suharto’s family for his candidacy. Yuddy has pledged to shake up the party that has, according to critics, flagged under the leadership of outgoing chairman Jusuf Kalla.

Although not expected to be in any position to make a serious stake for the Golkar crown because of a lack of funds and networks, Yuddy maintains that he will be able to secure the support of at least 30 percent of the party’s regional branches. His vision is to place Golkar as an independent party, but says that he will take cabinet seats if they were offered.

Surya Paloh
The flamboyant media mogul and veteran Golkar leader claims he has the support of 362 provincial and district branch chairmen. Not averse to using his media outlets to tout his candidacy or to feature stories about the out-of-pocket victims of the Lapindo mudflow disaster, the bearded Paloh has vowed to move Golkar out of the government for the first time in its long history.

He views the former ruling party as an equal partner to Yudhoyono’s government and one that must be critical and proportionate. He has pledged to reject any cabinet seats and instead focus on consolidating and rebuilding the party ahead of the 2014 elections.

Tommy Suharto
The former high-flying playboy prince of Cendana is not about to let his little conviction for ordering the murder of a Supreme Court justice who had the temerity to convict him of corruption get in the way of running for chairman. Nor, it seems, will Golkar. It can only be assumed that the branch chairmen will relish the prospect of a wealthy businessman throwing his hat in the ring, even if his election meant another nail in the party’s coffin.

The favored son of the late Suharto claims he has the support of 300 branch leaders, but will not identify them. He has promised to reject positions within the government and to form an independent party.

Jakarta Globe
October 05, 2009
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