Golkar leadership meeting turns sour as cadre named suspect
The Golkar Party officially endorsed the nomination of chairman Aburizal Bakrie as the party’s presidential hopeful at a national leadership meeting in Bogor on Friday.
The endorsement came after leaders of 33 provincial chapters and wing organizations expressed their support.
Yesterday’s leadership meeting of the Golkar Party was supposed to end jubilantly, with party members ready to support the nomination of chairman Aburizal Bakrie as the party’s presidential hopeful.
But the thrill only lasted for a few hours, as reports of the alleged involvement of party cadre, Zulkarnaen Djabar, in a graft scandal surfaced at the venue.
As representatives of the provincial chapters concluded their endorsement speeches, the party’s executive board asked Aburizal if he was willing to run for president. Aburizal said, “I accept this nomination.” His agreement instantly drew applause from the party cadres.
“ARB for president, ARB for president,” they chanted, referring to Aburizal’s initials.
Aburizal himself looked confident when delivering his opening remarks at the party’s national executives meeting held at the four-star Aston Hotel in Bogor, West Java, on Friday morning. The hotel is run by PT Bakrieland Development, which is partly controlled by Aburizal’s wealthy family.
“Golkar will provide legal assistance,” he said shortly in response to journalists who asked him for comments on the graft issue. “That’s a legal matter, leave it to the legal process.”
The Bogor meeting was also aimed at “celebrating” the end of protracted internal debates that saw most factions within the party eventually agree to name Aburizal as the party’s presidential nominee, despite minor opposing voices from non-influential cadres.
Despite the agreement of cadres to nominate Aburizal, former Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla was not seen at the venue. According to Golkar’s advisory board chairman Akbar Tandjung, the committee had invited all senior Golkar politicians to the event.
Kalla had been widely reported to be nominated as a presidential candidate by other parties, including the newly-established Nasdem Party.
“I haven’t seen him [Jusuf Kalla] for a long time. Please check with the organizing committee about this,” said Akbar, a former Golkar chairman.
Akbar is known to be one of Golkar’s senior figures who reportedly opposed the way the party nominated Aburizal in a process he claimed as “not democratic.” During Akbar’s leadership, Golkar organized a convention to select the best presidential candidate.
Talking to journalists in Bogor, Akbar said he eventually “understood that Aburizal’s nomination was supported by almost all Golkar branches and thus it was also democratic.”
He denied that his approval was due to certain negotiations or political deals.
Similar to Aburizal, Akbar also shied away when asked about the graft scandal allegedly involving a party cadre.
He also refused to speculate on whether the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) decision to name the Golkar cadre as a suspect was politically motivated or not.
Another Golkar senior member, Fadel Muhammad, who is a former Maritime Affairs and Fishery minister, said the alleged graft scandal “was sensitive and important to the party, hence it required special attention from our party.”
Fadel is known to have a close relationship with Akbar and is not among Aburizal’s loyalists.
Some Golkar members said that Aburizal had managed to utilize his “political and non-political” resources in order to negotiate his “internal opponents” such as Akbar and Fadel.
When the Friday meeting was about to end, Akbar told journalists that Aburizal’s nomination was not final. “In politics, anything can change, yet there is still two years before the election,” he said.
Aburizal himself did not show up in a press conference to conclude the meeting while some organizing committee members previously confirmed he would attend it and make press statements.
In addition, Hajriyanto Tohari, a member of Golkar’s central executive board, said Aburizal’s nomination must be obeyed by all Golkar members. “Any party member who runs for president via other parties will be subject to sanctions that range from suspension to forced dismissal,” he told journalists.
Talking about Aburizal’s potential running mate, Akbar said that while the party’s ongoing national meeting in Bogor, had determined Aburizal as its candidate for the 2014 election, the running mate for the business mogul was still being discussed.
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