When Surya Paloh left the Golkar Party after establishing the National Democratic (NasDem) mass organization in late 2011, he said that he no longer needed Golkar and vice versa.
More than a year after he made the statement, which culminated in a fallout with Golkar chairman Aburizal “Ical” Bakrie, Surya may find that he still needs Golkar and that the party still needs him, too.
Speculation is brewing that Golkar and the NasDem Party will join forces in 2014, after Aburizal came to the fledgling party’s headquarters in Jakarta last Wednesday.
Aburizal was officially invited by NasDem Party chairman Surya Paloh to attend an iftar dinner with his NasDem colleagues. The two rival politicians, who control the nation’s two major TV news stations, Metro TV and TVone, respectively, were seen enjoying their reunion despite past conflicts that led to Surya quitting Golkar after 43 years.
Golkar deputy secretary-general Nurul Arifin cited the presence of Ical at the feast as a signal of hope for a future coalition of both parties in the upcoming presidential election.
“I’m grateful that their [Aburizal-Surya Paloh] relationship is improving. I hope that the meeting will develop into a formal cooperation. Thus, I really hope that NasDem will pass the presidential threshold to allow this coalition to form,” Nurul told reporters on Thursday.
Nurul, a lawmaker from the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defense, foreign affairs and information, emphasized that “it’s time for the big yellow family to reunite”, referring to Golkar’s iconic yellow color.
In the past, this scenario seemed far-fetched. When Surya established NasDem in 2010, Aburizal was aware that the mass organization would turn into a political party and told him to choose between Golkar or the mass organization.
The party officially issued a circulation ordering its members who had joined Surya’s NasDem to leave the organization. The circulation came a few weeks before the declaration of the NasDem Party, which then claimed to have no affiliation with the mass organization.
The enmity between the two parties later intensified when a number of Golkar politicians decided to join Surya’s new party.
Golkar senior politician Priyo Budi Santoso also supported the proposed Golkar-NasDem coalition in the presidential election in July next year.
“Although they are now in charge of different parties, both figures are actually our senior politicians. I really hope that their meeting [last night] will soon turn into concrete cooperation”, Priyo said.
Although Aburizal and Surya have appeared among considered presidential candidates in various opinion polls, their popularity is still below other politicians including Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri, Great Indonesian Movement (Gerindra) Party patron Prabowo Subianto and former vice president Jusuf Kalla.
A previous survey by the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) last year revealed that the close contest between Kalla and Aburizal would put Golkar in a difficult position.
In that survey, Kalla garnered 5.6 percent of votes while Ical got 5.2. Both came after Megawati and Prabowo, who secured 10 percent and 6.7 percent respectively.
A recent opinion poll by CSIS did not include Aburizal or Surya among the most popular candidates.