Haute couture: Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman and lawmaker Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq dons a detainee jacket after undergoing questioning at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for his role in a bribery scandal connected to government beef imports. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
The arrest and detention of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq not only shocked the party members but also surprised its critics, who have longed argued that the party no longer lives up to its ideals. Margareth S. Aritonang and Bagus BT Saragih look into the long term implications of the scandal for the party.
The arrest of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq is a body blow for the party and will adversely affect its chances in 2014, analysts have predicted.
Hanta Yuda of the Poll Tracking Institute said that the Muslim-based party needed a new approach to mitigate fallout from the government imported beef bribe scandal to avoid losing the support of rank-and-file members.
“The PKS must search for other issues than anticorruption, because the public will no longer trust in its massive campaigns against it. Just like the Democratic Party, the PKS will automatically be associated with corruption after the investigation of Luthfi,” he said.
Hanta said that the naming of Luthfi as suspect in the scandal has shaken the foundations of the party, which has long promoted itself as clean and free of graft.
Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst with the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), said that the PKS was facing an existential crisis.
“This case will also disorient party members, who have long had the impression that their leaders have been working very hard for them,” Burhanuddin told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Burhanuddin also said that it would be difficult for the party to recover, given that its chairman was the target of a graft investigation. “The party is relatively clean, but apparently, the only time the party is linked with a graft case, it involves the party chairman.”
According to Burhanuddin, the graft case implicating the PKS chairman was not an unusual occurrence in the nation’s political scene.
He said that corruption has been the easiest way to get funding for the political parties.
“Bribery schemes always come to the minds of politicians because of the high cost of politics in this country,” Burhanuddin said. “Ministries have been the ‘milch cows’ for political parties. The same goes for the Agriculture Ministry for the PKS,” he said.
The KPK has detained three others in the scheme to allegedly deliver a bribe to the PKS chairman.
The commission confiscated Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) in cash from the back of the car of suspect Ahmad Fathanah, the reported courier for Juard Effendi and Aria Abdi Effendi, the directors of the meat importing company.
According to the KPK, the money was intended as a bribe for Luthfi to use his influence to award a government contract to a meat importing company, PT Indoguna Utama.
The contract was to have been awarded by the Agriculture Ministry, which is led by another PKS member, Suswono.
Soon after the news broke that Luthfi was named a graft suspect, PKS executives and members voiced suspicions about the timing of the arrests, calling it a conspiracy aimed at bringing down the party.
A member of the party’s central board, Refrizal, said that the KPK made the arrests to distract the public attention from other scandals.
“The exposure for the case has obviously distracted the public’s attention from other corruption cases that involve politicians from other political parties. We are wondering who has orchestrated the prosecution of our party leader. No matter what, we believe that justice will be served,” Refrizal said.
Meanwhile, another member of the PKS, Arif Luqman, 33, voiced similar sentiments. “As a member, I still believe this bribery scandal is a conspiracy against the party ahead of the elections,” Arif said.
However, Arif said that the party has not been what it used to be, with members leaving the party in anger in recent years.
“Many of them have started to think that the party’s leaders are no longer fighting for the party ideology. They have strong convictions that some of the leaders only follow the money,” he said. (nad)