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SBY calls on party to reform

Amid internal bickering, the chief patron of the Democratic Party, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is ordering party leaders to start soul searching ahead of the 2014 elections or face losing the trust of voters.

The Democratic Party needed to get its act together, Yudhoyono reportedly told hundreds of party executives and members at a national gathering at the Sentul International Convention Center in Bogor, West Java, on Saturday.

“Let us start introspection and reform from within the party, while continuing to behave ethically in political competitions,” Yudhoyono said in a speech following a closed-door session with hundreds of party members.

No media was allowed to attend the meeting, which was convened after senior party executive Andi Malarangeng resigned as youth
and sports minister following the KPK’s decision to name him as a suspect in the Hambalang sports complex scandal.

Ulil Absar Abdalla, the Democratic Party’s strategic policy development chief, said that Yudhoyono has been concerned about the misconduct of some of the party’s politicians, Antara news agency reported.

However, it was not too late for the Democratic Party to reform, according to Ulil. “Time goes by so fast in politics. One-and-a-half years is enough to make a rebound.”

At the meeting, Yudhoyono also reportedly tried to boost the sagging spirits of the Democratic Party’s faithful following the string of corruption allegations and convictions involving its politicians and lawmakers.

According to those inside the meeting hall, Yudhoyono said that he was ready to lend a hand to improve the party’s chances in 2014, which critics and pollsters have said were not too good, given the incessant scandals.

 “SBY told us that the fate of the Democratic Party cannot be changed unless its members are committed to changing it and to winning the election,” Democratic Party spokesperson Andi Nurpati told reporters.

Andi said that Yudhoyono had also given orders to start reforming the party and to prepare a strategy to improve the party’s standing ahead of 2014, when the nation will elect a new president and all 560 members of the House of Representatives.

Yudhoyono also gave the instruction that party members must only use money from legal sources to run their political campaigns in 2014.

Polls have suggested that the Democratic Party, which won 21 percent of the vote in 2009, may secure less than 15 percent of the vote in 2014.

Respondents have said that they could no longer trust the Democratic Party after a host of its senior members were implicated in graft scandals, according to the polls.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, who has also been implicated in the graft scandal that led to Andi’s fall from grace, has been attempting to reassert control over the party’s rank and file.

Anas fired Ruhut Sitompul as the party’s communications and information chief after Ruhut urged Anas to resign to protect the party. “Anas dug his own grave. I stand by my words: He should step down,” Ruhut said.

Ruhut attempted to make his case to Yudhoyono on Saturday. He was denied the entry to the closed-door meeting and escorted out of the building.

Responding to Yudhoyono’s call for party members to use legal sources of funding to finance their campaign, Anas said that the party’s leaders had always used money from legitimate sources.

“The Democratic Party, since it started to run in elections in 2004, has used money from halal [legal] sources. These halal funds are what we use to fund the party. This is part of our commitment,” Anas said.

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