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Indonesia's Golkar to trade votes for Cabinet seats

Publication Date : 04-04-2014


Struggling to lift his electability rating to a competitive level, the presidential candidate of Indonesia's Golkar Party, Aburizal Bakrie, has proposed that whoever wins the July 9 presidential race should take the parties of losing candidates into a government coalition. His offer is not an empty gesture, as Golkar, despite Aburizal’s lack of popular support, is considered the second most-electable party.

Aburizal has suggested that Golkar’s likely significant haul of seats in the House of Representatives (DPR) following the April 9 legislative election is important to whoever becomes president, if he wants to enjoy support from the House. And, of course, Aburizal wants to reap a share of the power in return.

“Of course, [Golkar] should be given some Cabinet positions [if there is a coalition],” Aburizal told journalists on the sidelines of Golkar’s campaign rally in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), on Wednesday.

He said the next administration needed to secure the support of more than half the House if it wanted to govern smoothly with support for its policies from lawmakers.

“Now, if we talk about forming a coalition, it’s not only about fulfilling the popular vote threshold to nominate a presidential candidate. What is no less essential is thinking about how to form a coalition in the House after the race, consisting of more than half the total lawmakers, to support the government,” Aburizal said.

“The party whose presidential candidate wins should ally itself with those parties whose candidates lose, because it is highly unlikely that the winning candidate’s supporters will account for 50 percent of the seats,” he added.

“That is the only way the next administration will be able to run the government smoothly without any major disruption from lawmakers; especially, for example, when it comes to an unpopular policy that has to be taken by the president,” Aburizal said.

Analysts say Aburizal’s statement can be seen as an attempt to tease the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), whose presidential candidate, Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has regularly topped a number of electability surveys.

PDI-P secretary-general Tjahjo Kumolo recently said the party had held talks with teams representing prominent Golkar figures, such as former vice president Jusuf Kalla, former chairman Akbar Tandjung, and deputy head of the party’s advisory council, Gen. (ret) Luhut Panjaitan.

Sources within the PDI-P have also confirmed that these three figures were among the candidates being considered to become Jokowi’s running mate.

When asked if Golkar was eyeing a coalition with the PDI-P, Aburizal said, “we’ll see if [the PDI-P] needs us to make up a coalition of more than half the House seats.”

Meanwhile, political communications expert Tjipta Lesmana, said Aburizal’s proposal indicated that he was finally admitting that he would probably not win the presidency.

“Now, a realistic approach for Golkar would be to propose some of its party members to become running mates for other presidential candidates with higher chances of winning, such as Jokowi or [the Gerindra Party’s] Prabowo Subianto,” he said.

Aburizal was likely to keep to his own presidential ticket because he had already pursued it for so long, Tjipta added.

“Just as in 2009, Golkar’s Kalla lost in the presidential race but the party managed to enter the government and obtained some ministerial posts,” he said.

“Golkar’s strong electoral power gives it a strong bargaining position for political negotiations,” he argued.

Aburizal, however, has not dismissed the possibility of Golkar becoming an opposition party, which would be a major turning point in the party’s history, as it has always been part of the nation’s ruling government since it was established in the 1960s.

“Our democracy does not actually recognize an opposition. But if by opposition you mean being outside the Cabinet, Golkar is ready for that. In that case, Golkar would provide constructive criticism to the government,” Aburizal said.

Charta Politika political analyst Arya Fernandes said that, historically, Golkar was always close to the center of power.

“Being in opposition would be an anomaly for Golkar. It would be tantamount to denying its ‘fate’ as a party, which is always within the government,” he said.

“Besides, saying that it is ready to be an opposition party could also cast a pessimistic air to Golkar members in general. It could affect their morale, making it seem as if Golkar had already lost to the PDI-P, even before the race begins. I think it could be counterproductive,” Arya added.


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