Exodus: Hundreds of NasDem Party members throw their party jackets to signify that they have quit the party in front of NasDem Party headquarters in Jakarta on Friday. At least 3,000 people in Jakarta tendered their resignations from the newly established party and returned their membership cards to the party leadership. (Antara/Rosa Panggabean)
The NasDem Party’s first national congress in Jakarta on Friday was filled with uplifting and encouraging remarks from the fledgling party’s leaders in the face of an internal rift that could lead to the resignation of thousands of members.
The congress, which will last until Sunday, was opened by party chairman Patrice Rio Capella.
In his speech, he roused party members and supporters to work harder and faster to win the 2014 elections.
“The NasDem Party was established not to contend elections, not to reach the parliamentary threshold, but to win the elections,” said Patrice.
His speech won a standing ovation from NasDem mass organization founder Surya Paloh and the majority of congress participants.
More than 1,500 party functionaries from 33 provinces, regencies, municipalities and from the party’s wing organizations took part in the meeting at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, that went out live on MetroTV.
Also attending the event were former vice president Jusuf Kalla, rector of the Paramadina University Anis Baswedan and several state officials.
Patrice said the congress’ main objectives were to overhaul the party’s statutes, design programs to win the 2014 elections and conduct internal consolidation.
He declared that the congress would elect Surya as the new chairman, a decision that has drawn criticism from other party members, including media tycoon and chairman of the party’s council of experts, Hary Tanoesoedibjo.
Surya has been tipped as the party’s chairman since it was founded two years ago, Patrice said.
The party is confident that Hary’s exit will not hinder it from achieving its goals.
“The storm will be over and it will make the party stronger,” Patrice said.
Hours before the congress began, Diflaizal Zen, secretary of the party’s Jakarta chapter, claimed that thousands in the capital would resign from the party to protest at Surya’s appointment and that more members would follow suit in the following days.
Surya stopped short of mentioning Hary and the friction within the party in his speech.
“We need ads and logistics but they are not everything and I am sure the party will be able to reach its goals,” said Surya, a media tycoon more experienced in politics than Hary.
NasDem is widely seen as a dark horse in the upcoming elections.
Various polls have predicted that the party could be major competition for the old political parties, especially the smaller ones.
In a March 2012 survey by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), the party was ranked fourth, after the Golkar Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Democratic Party.
The NasDems are optimistic of gaining 21 percent of the vote in the 2014 polls.
The internal feuds have cast doubt over the party’s ability to make a strong showing in the coming elections.
Hary is one of the country’s richest men and controls Media Nusantara Citra (MNC), the largest media group in the country. He played a major role in helping NasDem become the only new party eligible for the 2014 polls.
Iberamsjah, political analyst at the University of Indonesia, believes Hary’s resignation is a major blow to the nascent party. “NasDem needs an intensive internal consolidation to win minimum seats at the House in 2014. Surya should change his authoritarian style and make democracy a reality in the party,” he said.
Iberamsjah believes it will be difficult for NasDem to gain seven percent of the vote in 2014, even with an influx of politicians from established parties, including Golkar, where Surya served his political apprenticeship.
Former secretary general of the House of Representatives Nining Indra Saleh, outgoing secretary general of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) Siti Nurbaya and former commander of Indonesian Military (TNI) Gen. (ret) Endriartono Sutarto are among the new faces at the congress.