Splits, shifting alliances define 2014

The_Jakarta_Post_LogoDespite its victory in this year’s legislative election, it was not all a walk in the park for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) as supporters of Prabowo Subianto joined forces to dominate the legislature, posing threats to the new administration’s ability to govern effectively.

Indeed, it initially appeared difficult for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to get things done, but as cracks began to appear within a number of opposition parties, his chances of running an effective government improved.

The PDI-P, which had been in opposition for 10 years, returned to power after securing 19.5 percent of the votes in the April 9 legislative election, a victory that owed much to the popularity of Jokowi.

Despite that triumph, the PDI-P has struggled to exert control over the House of Representatives after five political parties supporting defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto — the Golkar Party, the Gerindra Party, the United Development Party (PPP), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) — sealed their alliance under the banner of the Red-and-White Coalition.

In addition, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party joined the fray, building an alliance with the opposition despite Yudhoyono’s claim that his party would remain neutral.

Only days before the inauguration of new lawmakers in late September, the coalition successfully pushed the outgoing House to pass a controversial bill that put an end to direct regional elections, prompting then president Yudhoyono to issue a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to render the bill void.

The coalition once again outmaneuvered the PDI-P-led Great Indonesia Coalition in two separate contests to secure the speakerships of the House and the People’s Consultative Assembly.

But following the victories, cracks began to appear in the opposition coalition, with a number of party executives wanting to jump ship and join the ruling coalition.

As 2014 drew to a close, more and more Red-and-White Coalition politicians publicly announced that they were ready to leave the coalition.

The PPP was the first to crack under the pressure. Many of the Islamic party’s executives openly challenged the leadership of Suryadharma Ali, who is implicated in a graft case.

A breakaway faction led by former party secretary-general Muhammad “Romy” Romahurmuziy held its version of muktamar (national congress) in Surabaya, East Java, several days before Jokowi’s inauguration, in a move seen as a late attempt to get a share of power.

The congress named Romy the new chairman of the PPP and the party changed course as predicted. The appointment of PPP politician Lukman Hakim Saifuddin as Religious Affairs minister in Jokowi’s Cabinet was believed to be a reward for the PPP’s decision to support the President’s administration.

Later in October, Suryadharma’s faction held its own congress in Jakarta and elected former public housing minister Djan Faridz party chairman.

In late 2014, it was the turn of Golkar to be rocked by infighting. The country’s oldest political party saw major internal division after a group of the party’s youth members, supporters of former coordinating people’s welfare minister Agung Laksono, stormed Golkar headquarters in West Jakarta and attacked members of the opposing faction.

Golkar had known infighting before, but it had never experienced violence, and after the clash the party was effectively split in two: one faction led by incumbent chairman Aburizal Bakrie and one by deputy chairman Agung.

The two factions held separate national congresses, something unprecedented in Golkar history. Supporters of Aburizal held a congress in early December during which he secured a second term without election. Agung’s supporters accused the congress of being rigged, with many regional and local leaders allegedly bribed or threatened with dismissal if they refused to support Aburizal.

About a week later, Agung’s camp held its own congress, which they claimed to be “more democratic”. As expected, Agung won the most votes in the congress’ chairmanship vote, defeating former House deputy speaker Priyo Budi Santoso and lawmaker Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

But Agung’s pledge to take Golkar out of the Red-and-White Coalition and join the government failed to materialize. The government decided not to recognize Agung’s leadership of Golkar, and the stand-off continued.

Many have speculated that the infighting was engineered as part of Jokowi’s “operation” to lessen growing political pressure applied by opposition politicians.

With PAN and the Democratic Party set to elect new chairmen, many suspect that a similar operation has been launched against those two parties.

In the July 9 presidential election, many PAN and Democratic Party politicians privately expressed their support for Jokowi’s presidential bid, despite their parties’ official decision to endorse Prabowo.

Frontrunners in the PAN chairmanship election include the incumbent, Hatta Rajasa, and People’s Consultative Assembly Speaker Zulkifli Hasan. Yudhoyono is likely be reelected as Democratic Party chairman, if he decides to run in the congress.

Some Democratic Party politicians believe that Yudhoyono will not seek reelection, citing aspirations of regeneration. If that is the case, the party’s upcoming chairmanship election will be a crowded field, as many have expressed their desire to run for the position, including Regional Representatives Council member Gede Pasek Suardika and party deputy chairman Max Sopacua.

The two party congresses are expected to tip the balance at the House and allow Jokowi greater support from the legislative body.

Political analyst Agung Baskoro of the Poltracking Institute, however, said that Golkar remained Jokowi’s most promising hope. “Gaining permanent support from Golkar has become Jokowi’s best option, since the Democratic Party and PAN have played their cards as ‘flexible counterbalances’,” he said.

“It is no secret that many of Golkar’s most high-profile members have integrity issues. Irianto ‘Yance’ Syafiuddin, who has been named a corruption suspect, is one example. Jokowi might use state instruments, like the Attorney General’s Office or the [Finance Ministry’s] directorate general of taxation, to nail them. Although politically it would be seen as coercing Golkar to move closer to Jokowi, it is allowed by the law,” Agung said.

(Link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/12/31/splits-shifting-alliances-define-2014.html)

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