Lateral lead: The National Democrat (NasDem) Party’s election executive Ferry Mursyidan Baldan (left) talks with former party chairman Patrice Rio Capella during a press conference on the sidelines of the party’s congress in Jakarta on Saturday. Party founder and chief patron Surya Paloh replaced Patrice despite protests from several members. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
The fate of the NasDem Party will now depend on whether Surya Paloh, who took over leadership of the party during its first congress in Jakarta on Saturday, can set aside his presidential ambitions to build up the party, an analyst says.
More than 1,000 congress participants unanimously elected Surya as the new chairman, replacing Patrice Rio Capella, despite objections from party members who wanted the party to be led by a younger politician.
Yunarto Wijaya of Charta Politika said that 62-year-old Surya should focus on uniting the party following the exit of many of its members, including media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who resigned from his post as chairman of the party’s council of experts in protest of Surya’s move to seize control of the party.
“If NasDem is being used for his own personal ambitions, the party could experience a huge setback. Surya’s electability is lower than the party’s, according to several surveys,” Yunarto told The Jakarta Post.
Surya, the owner of the media group that runs MetroTV and Media Indonesia, left the Golkar Party not long after he was defeated by Aburizal Bakrie in the race for the party’s leadership in 2009. In 2010, Surya established the mass organization National Democrat, the precursor of the NasDem Party, which was then widely seen as an alternative vehicle for Surya’s political ambitions.
Yunarto said that the party should not play down Hary’s exit, which he said had triggered other members to follow suit. On Saturday, party members in Jakarta, Maluku and West Java tendered their resignations, citing differences with NasDem’s central board, including in regards to Surya’s appointment.
“Hary’s next move could really pose a threat for NasDem. If Hary decides to join another political party, there could be an exodus,” he said, adding that there were probably many NasDem members who opposed Surya’s election but decided to stay as they wanted to run in the upcoming elections.
Hary, who controls the country’s largest media group, Media Nusantara Citra (MNC), has opened the possibility of establishing a new political party or joining another established political party, including Golkar.
The presidential election was not discussed during the congress, let alone an official endorsement of Surya as NasDem’s candidate. “If we are among the top three parties in the upcoming election, then we can discuss that […] For the time being, NasDem is focusing on building friendships, such as with [former vice president and Golkar politician] Jusuf Kalla and former commander of the Indonesian Military [TNI] Gen. [ret] Endriartono Sutarto,” NasDem’s Ferry Mursyidan Baldan told reporters.
NasDem Party deputy chairman Sugeng Suparwoto claimed that the party had remained calm amid the exit of several of its members. “There has been no apparent political resonance from their resignations […] In fact, this has united us and has boosted our confidence,” he said after the party’s national congress at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan.
He mentioned the party had listed 47 bright figures and intellectuals who were willing to take Hary’s position on the NasDem advisory council. “This is a political party for people who are longing for change in this country. Many figures, both professionals, scholars and activists, have joined our party,” he said, adding that some of the new members were Harvard and Georgetown University graduates.
Former NasDem chairman Patrice said that Surya would announce the new NasDem board members in the next two weeks.