Asset or liability?: Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum (center) and secretary-general Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro (second right) pose with new Central Kalimantan party leaders in the provincial capital of Palangkaraya on Monday. Foes within the ruling party are seeking to dethrone Anas, believing that his implication in graft has harmed the party’s prospects. Antara/Ridhwan Ermalamora
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says he is considering taking over the leadership of his Democratic Party following a drive to oust chairman Anas Urbaningrum.
The drive against Anas has been said to be led by several members of the party’s patron board, including Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik, Transportation Minister E.E. Mangindaan and Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsudin, who have called on Yudhoyono to stop the party’s popularity from further plunging following the corruption scandal implicating Anas.
The President, on a visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, told Indonesian journalists traveling with him on Monday that he would announce his decision immediately after completing the umroh minor haj pilgrimage in Mecca on Tuesday.
“The last survey showed the Democratic Party’s declining popularity. In response, some party members told me that this is the time to get emergency assistance from me,” Yudhoyono said.
The President also criticized the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for not swiftly completing its probe of the Hambalang graft case.
“I believe the KPK will enforce the law without exception. So please, KPK, take decisive action to make it clear who is guilty and who is innocent. This also concerns the fate of party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, who has been presumed guilty because the KPK has not drawn any conclusions,” Yudhoyono added.
Earlier on Monday, party patrons told reporters about their concerns about a survey conducted by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting firm that showed that the popularity of the party had plunged to a record low of eight percent.
“We have reached a point where we can no longer keep silent. Staying quiet while this party is headed to destruction is not responsible,” Amir said on Monday.
Amir agreed with Jero, who suggested that Yudhoyono, as chief patron, take immediate action to “salvage” the party.
“The low popularity and electability as highlighted by the survey can be attributed to the corruption cases implicating party members. This should serve as an alarm for us,” Jero said on Sunday.
Syariefuddin Hasan, another party patron and the cooperatives and small and medium enterprises minister, joined Jero in delivering the statement.
Both Amir and Jero, however, denied that they called on Anas to step down, even though they agreed that it would be best if he did so.
Anas has been implicated in the scandal surrounding the construction of the Hambalang sports complex in Bogor, West Java, which has seen disgraced lawmaker, graft convict and former party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin named as a suspect.
Nazaruddin accused Anas of controlling the awarding of contracts and issuance of land certificates for the project.
He alleged the illicit money that Anas received was spent to finance his bid to become party chairman in 2010.
Meanwhile, Anas, has shrugged off calls for his dismissal.
“Every party member must uphold ethics. Any movement within the party must be carried out according to party regulations,” Anas told reporters while on a visit to Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Sunday.
Anas also said that under his stewardship, the Democratic Party could remain a strong political party.
“We are going ahead with our consolidation efforts and I am convinced that we can perform well in the 2014 legislative elections,” Anas said.
Arya Fernandes, a political analyst from Charta Politika, said that it would not easy for Yudhoyono to take over the party’s chairmanship from Anas, as more than half of the party regional branches were stocked with his loyal supporters. “It will be difficult to unseat Anas because of the tremendous grassroots support for him,” he said.
Any attempt to replace Anas must be held during a congress where each regional branch will have a vote.
Arya said that he also suspected that the drive to oust Anas resulted from dissatisfaction with Anas’
disqualification of legislative candidates proposed by his rivals in the party.