Aburizal Bakrie set to
chair the Golkar Party

Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Aburizal Bakrie looks set to win the Golkar Party chairmanship election after 341 of 536 branches and organizations had indicated they would elect him prior to the election session late on Wednesday.

Surya Paloh gained 136 such supporters, but it was unclear how many members would vote for Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra (son of former president Soeharto) or Yudi Chrisnandi.

The election session began around midnight following a dispute over duplicate votes from delegates of two regency branches in North Maluku and Pulau Seribu.

The dispute followed a scuffle that delayed the congress’ seventh session, during an explanation on the requirements and rulings of the election.

The two branches were among seven regional branches and an organization that had sent two representatives each.

Under an earlier congress ruling, the number of votes was set at 536, comprising 492 regency branches, 33 provincial branches, 10 organizations and one from the party’s executive board of chairmanship.

Fadel Muhammad, the chairman of the congress session, said the two representatives sent to the congress had different mandates in the election — one had backed Aburizal and the other backed Surya Paloh.

Earlier, Aburizal said if elected he would implement three main programs, namely restructuring the organization, preparing for the 2014 general elections, and deciding on the direction of the party’s strategic policies.

He had proposed to extend the next chairmanship period until 2015, not 2014, as to prevent an overlap with the next general elections.

Aburizal  promised to make Golkar a supporter of the government without necessarily neglecting its right to criticize it.

“It would be narrow-minded for us to become an opposition party. Golkar should not be satisfied by itself seeing the failures of the government,” Aburizal  said at a press conference.

Aburizal was inclined to make Golkar into an independent party because through independence it would be more free to set its own agenda, and make decisions for its own benefit.

“With an independent stance, independent thought and independent funding, Golkar will be able to freely criticize the government if its policies do not run as expected.

"But if they are satisfactory like the community empowerment program, we must support them,”
he said.

At the opening of the four-day congress on Monday, outgoing Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla called on congress attendants to make Golkar an opposition party.

The rational for his request was based on the fact that to be beneficial to the public, the party should not position itself as a "begging party".

“A party always has two choices — holding power or swinging outside power. Golkar is not used to being out of power, but it is unlikely Golkar will beg for it,” Kalla said.

Power is what all political parties including Golkar want most, Kalla said. Therefore, if it is no longer in power, Golkar has to be ready to become an opposition party, as a controller of the administration.

“If we want to go ahead with our programs, power is a must. But if [we are not in power], we must control the party that is in power.”

Aburizal  promised to make Golkar a supporter of the government without necessarily neglecting its right to criticize it.

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