In a press conference last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he would take the reins of his Democratic Party’s leadership to restore its tainted image.
The party’s high council, led by Yudhoyono, agreed to relieve incumbent party chairman Anas Urbaningrum from his duties as he tends to the legal case in which he has been implicated.
Yudhoyono said he would focus on rebuilding the Democratic Party’s beleaguered reputation and advised anyone who was unhappy with the decision to leave the party he helped found almost a decade ago.
A recent survey conducted by Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting said that Democratic Party’s electability had dropped to just 8 percent, far lower than the 20.8 percent of the vote the party won in the 2009 legislative elections.
Anas’ unstable chairmanship and corruption scandals involving a number of the party’s senior members have been said to contribute much to the party’s declining fortunes.
If Yudhoyono really intends to restore the Democratic Party, his efforts should begin with serious steps to fight corruption in the party. Yudhoyono could work with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), requiring that party officials to explain if their wealth does not match what has previously been reported.
The move will serve as game-changer for the party’s commitment to uprooting graft. At the same time, Yudhoyono needs to involve the tax office to audit Democratic Party executives who hold public posts and do not fulfill their tax responsibilities.
Corruption has boded ill for the people’s trust in political parties, particularly of the parties born during the Reform era. For the Democratic Party, corruption has given the party’s politicians double personalities.
Many say that prominent figures such as Anas and Andi Mallarangeng, long known as dedicated intellectuals, have become opportunistic when in power.
Those politicians have found it hard to escape the corruption trap due to the pressing needs of the party for money.
Yudhoyono’s efforts as head of the high council to clear the party from corrupt politicians have been instrumental in filtering out political adventurers who have hidden personal agendas.
The party’s politicians involved in graft scandals, especially executives such as Muhammad Nazaruddin or Hartati Cakra Murdaya, cannot be totally separated from their itching to make a fortune and expand their businesses.
Psychologically speaking, rampant corruption in the Democratic Party has much to do with soaring egoism among politicians following the party’s impressive performance in the 2004 election and phenomenal win five years later.
The two factors have given Democratic Party members, either as ministers in the Cabinet or lawmakers in the House of Representatives, the upper hand and political privileges.
However, revamping the party’s tarnished image should not overlook rejuvenating the leadership of the Democratic Party. Without such rejuvenation, future leaders of the party will not be prepared, since no one in the party will be capable of coming out from Yudhoyono’s shadow of influence.
Regeneration of leadership is also central to eliminating political oligarchy in the party, something that has quickly taken route in the post-Soeharto era.
A rejuvenated chairmanship is the key to establishing collective leadership for the Democratic Party. The future of the nation’s politics lies in joint leadership instead of a cult of personality, which has created a stultifying atmosphere and created caste politics within the party.
More importantly, Yudhoyono needs to take an extraordinary approach in tackling the graft plaguing his party’s politicians, both in the Cabinet and the House.
For that purpose, Yudhoyono could adopt a “corporate culture” in an attempt to recruit the best talent for the party. The Democratic Party could organize and launch recruitment drives based on strict “fit-and-proper” tests.
The clouds over the Democratic Party are evidence of substantial problems. Certain people have brought sacks of money to the party with the expectation of gaining seats as party executives.
The effect of failed recruitment in the party can be described as a ticking time-bomb, just waiting to splatter the party with more troubles.
It is equally important is for Yudhoyono to consolidate all the party’s resources, whether human or financial. His action to take the reins of the Democratic Party’s leadership certainly has pros and cons.
He must have flair and be very good at convincing both sides that his decision is simply for unity of the party, reviving the Democratic Party’s spirits and preventing party politicians and supporters from jumping ship to different
Above all, Yudhoyono cannot seek a solution to the scandals facing the party in populism. The various problems facing the country are not always associated with the Democratic Party, such as a growing reliance on fuel and oil imports, food price hike, investment insurance, and many other things.
Yudhoyono and the Democratic Party’s five Cabinet ministers should distance themselves from the party’s internal matters and stay focused on their state jobs in the final year of the administration instead.
The people’s interests are much more important than the Democratic Party’s agenda.
Yudhoyono and his party have found the way. The question now is whether they have the will.
The writer is a lecturer in the cultural sciences faculty at Andalas University, Padang.