National

Yudhoyono to gather party’s
local executives as crisis
rumbles on

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will hold a meeting with the local executives of his ruling Democratic Party in Cikeas, West Java, on Saturday as the party struggles to cope with a leadership crisis following the resignation of party chairman Anas Urbaningrum.

Democratic Party central executive Sutan Bhatoegana said on Friday that the consolidation meeting would review current incidents concerning the party, including future efforts to save the party.

 It remains unclear whether the meeting would discuss plans to hold an extraordinary congress to select a new chief to replace Anas as required by the party’s constitution.

The party has yet to make any decision on the timing of the congress amid rumors that the party leadership at the local level is still dominated by Anas’ supporters.

“We will talk about how to bring all leaders together to save this party. I expect all party leaders and members to put aside personal feelings for the sake of this party. Please do remember that the Democratic Party doesn’t belong to Anas or any other person. It belongs to the people,” Sutan said.

A politician within the party who requested anonymity said that Yudhoyono, who chairs the party’s supreme assembly, was cautious about calling the congress as he might risk losing full control of the party he founded.

Anas, known to be an influential figure within the Islamic Students Association (HMI), reportedly managed to recruit HMI activists in the regions to join the party.

Such a strong support base has helped him survive various attempts to unseat him before he stepped down after being charged by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

It is not impossible that his loyalists who remain in the party could control the votes in the congress and elect a new chief who is out of favor with Yudhoyono.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla, one of the party’s executives, said the political cost of the congress “would be too expensive” for Yudhoyono. “It’s better not to push for the congress in the near future. It will be too risky because we cannot control the votes. Any undesirable person could end up as chairman,” said Ulil.

“The congress is the most democratic way to determine a new chairman but under the current circumstances, it would be unwise to hold it,” he added.

The party’s constitution stipulates that the party’s chairman is elected by a congress. Ulil and other party members, however, have called on the President to instead appoint an interim chairman.

A number of high-profile figures have been tipped to replace Anas, including Yudhoyono’s brother-in-law, Army chief of staff Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, who will soon retire, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto and House of Representatives speaker Marzuki Alie.

Pramono has refused to comment on his possible appointment, while Djoko has said he has never had any thought of leading a political party.

Marzuki, who is regarded as neutral between the Anas and Yudhoyono factions is seen as one the strongest candidates.

 He said he was ready to lead the party. “I will always be committed to doing my job whatever it is.”

On Friday, Marzuki called on Yudhoyono to prioritize party members to be the next chairman instead of appointing an outsider.

The statement is seen as a rejection of the possible appointment of Pramono or Djoko as the new Democratic Party leader.

“It would be unethical to appoint an outsider to chair the party. Our regulations don’t permit that. I believe all party members are well informed about this, and so is Pak SBY,” Marzuki said, referring to Yudhoyono.

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