Red-White Coalition Seeks to Keep Democrats in the Fold

logo_Jakarta-Globe_B4E-2011Jakarta. Leaders of the Red-White Coalition are looking to stage a meeting with former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono amid speculation that his party might leave the opposition bloc and join President Joko Widodo’s ruling coalition.

“Hopefully we can [stage the meeting] this week,” said House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon, a senior politician from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

Yudhoyono, chairman of the Democratic Party, has expressed his disappointment over the Golkar Party, a fellow member of the opposition bloc known as the KMP.

Last week, Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie announced that his party will not support a presidential regulation in lieu of law (Perppu), which Yudhoyono issued in late October during his final days in office.

The decree overturned the so-called regional elections law — which eliminates direct elections for governors, mayors and district chiefs — that the House enacted days earlier.

The emergency decree, effective for just 90 days, expires later this month, at which time the House must decide whether to sustain or reject it.

If it opts for the latter, legislators must quickly draft and enact an amended law or an absence of law may exist in the interim that would cast doubt on the legitimacy of regional elections scheduled for next year.

Yudhoyono said Golkar’s position betrays an earlier agreement between the Democrats and the KMP to support the Perppu, which he said was key to keeping the Democrats in the KMP.

“[Golkar] has one-sidedly rejected the Perppu, betraying the deal that had been made. To me, this is a matter of principle,” the former president tweeted last Thursday. He added that the Democrats could “no longer cooperate” with “inconsistent parties that betray deals and abandon commitments,” without elaborating.

Fadli downplayed

Aburizal’s statement saying that the rejection was personal and does not reflect the party’s official stance.

The Democrats “should wait until Jan. 12,” he said referring to when a House plenary session is scheduled to hear each political party’s position on the Perppu.

But newly elected Golkar central leadership board chairman Tantowi Yahya said Golkar did decide not to endorse Yudhoyono’s Perppu.

“During [Golkar’s] national convention in Bali there were proposals by provincial Golkar leaders. They asked [Golkar’s] central leadership board to reject the Perppu. Based on their observations and experiences, direct elections do more harm than good,” he said as quoted by Viva News.

The regional elections law, which Yudhoyono revoked with the Perppu, would allow regional legislatures and city councils to appoint governors, district heads and mayors, much like the 32-year military dictatorship under former president Suharto.

The law provides the KMP — particularly its biggest party, Golkar — a huge advantage in getting one of their own as regional leaders. The KMP controls the majority in regional legislatures in all but three provinces.

Yudhoyono met with Joko on Monday to discuss the decree at the State Palace, which Joko hinted could provide the basis for a possible union between the Democrats and the Awesome Indonesia Coalition (KIH), which is led by Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Joko kept details of his meeting with Yudhoyono a secret.

“Only SBY and I know what he has committed [to],” he said, adding that both felt it unnecessary to formalize their agreement.

The former president has neither confirmed nor denied Joko’s remarks about the possibility of the Democrats joining the ruling coalition.

Ready to support

But Yudhoyono said he was “ready to support” the administration after meeting Vice President Jusuf Kalla. “I am giving my support so that this administration can perform its tasks well.”

The former president’s statements seem to be an about-face, since he earlier emphasized that the Democrats would stay outside the government.

Yudhoyono also said it was important for Indonesian people that the government was able to “create new achievements” and “continue what the previous [administration] has done.”

Another KMP partner, the National Mandate Party (PAN) could also join the KIH in its effort to have the Perppu ratified as a permanent law.

The PAN is known to be close with the Democrats, since the daughter of its chairman, Hatta Rajasa, is married to Yudhoyono’s son.

Hatta has defended Yudhoyono’s Perppu, but also aired his party’s wishes to stay inside the KMP.

The five-party KIH controls a combined 246 seats in the House, compared with the KMP’s 314.

If all KIH members faithfully abide to support direct regional elections, the Perppu can receive up to 356 votes with the support of PAN and the Democratic Party.

In comparison, the remaining parties in the KMP — Golkar, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) — will only be able to garner 204 votes.


Indonesian Institute of Sciences senior political researcher Siti Zuhro doubted whether the Democrats will join the KIH permanently after the House deliberates the Pperppu saying: “there has not been any strong signal” the party will do so.

Jeiry Sumampouw of the Indonesian Voters’ Committee (Tepi) said he suspected that courting the KIH might be one of Yudhoyono’s political moves to gain more leverage from both political blocks.

“SBY and the Democrats have been clever in taking steps which benefit their parties,” he said adding that Yudhoyono had never made it clear on where he stands on key political issues including regional elections.

Although Yudhoyono’s administration authored and sponsored the legislation, the president ostensibly withdrew his support in a videotaped message days before the House vote, for which he did not return while traveling overseas.

Further adding ambiguity to the former president’s stance was the decision by his party’s legislators to walk from the floor of the House immediately prior to the vote, which did not abrogate a quorum but instead removed the only barrier to the anti-democratic bill’s passage.

Yudhoyono and his party had also never made it clear which side they are on, experts noted.

The Democrats had so far shied away from signing a KMP agreement to form “a permanent coalition.”

The only agreements the Democrats signed with the KMP are one to support Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto as presidential candidate and to back KMP politicians as House leaders, experts said.

Agung Baskoro, an expert with survey group Poltracking, said the key to getting Yudhoyono on board with Joko’s coalition is in the hand of PDI-P chairwoman and Yudhoyono’s former boss Megawati Soekarnoputri.

“PDI-P lobbyists including Megawati must follow up this opportunity and take the initiative [to meet Democrat leaders],” he said.

Before announcing his cabinet line up, Joko had met with Yudhoyono several times, reportedly to convince him to join his coalition.


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