Headlines

Golkar less than united
ahead of elections

Weak support: Chairman of the Golkar Party’s Advisory Council, Akbar Tandjung (center), is seen busy with his cell phone as most others screamed their support for party chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s presidential candidacy during a national leadership meeting in Jakarta on Friday. Aburizal’s presidential candidacy has divided the country’s second-largest party. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
Weak support: Chairman of the Golkar Party’s Advisory Council, Akbar Tandjung (center), is seen busy with his cell phone as most others screamed their support for party chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s presidential candidacy during a national leadership meeting in Jakarta on Friday. Aburizal’s presidential candidacy has divided the country’s second-largest party. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)

Less than five months until the legislative election, Golkar Party elites are struggling to overcome their differences concerning the nomination of its unpopular chairman, Aburizal Bakrie, as presidential candidate and to find immediate solutions to the party’s financial troubles.

The party’s influential advisory board chairman, Akbar Tandjung, said on Friday that while he accepted Aburizal’s nomination, he warned the party of troubles ahead as it would have to go the extra mile in jacking up Aburizal’s popularity ahead of the presidential election in July 2014.

“I am committed to the party’s decision [to nominate Aburizal]. I will respect the party’s decision,” Akbar said. “But we need to pay attention to the electability of our candidate,” said Akbar before hundreds of Golkar politicians attending the party’s national leadership meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Akbar was among the party’s staunchest opponents to Aburizal’s nomination.

While Akbar appears to have backed down, Golkar’s leaders remain divided, particularly because Aburizal did not invite the party’s leaders at the regency and municipal levels to the meeting.

“There will be a break in the party if Aburizal refuses to accept our aspirations,” said Banda Aceh representative Muntasir Hamid, who led 135 other regional representatives to protest the decision not to accommodate their voices.

The representatives demanded a review of Aburizal’s nomination.

“Give us the opportunity to voice our concerns. We will not challenge your [Aburizal’s] candidacy, but please consider other worthy candidates such as Akbar and Jusuf Kalla,” said Muntasir.

Kalla, former vice president and Aburizal’s predecessor as Golkar chairman, did not attend the event.

The meeting was also used by Golkar elites at the provincial level to voice their concerns over the party’s financial troubles.

The deputy chairman of Golkar’s Central Java chapter, Harry Afandi, said that his office had yet to receive any money from Aburizal or headquarters. “We haven’t received any of it,” Harry said.

An executive at the party’s headquarters, Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa, said the party’s board had only allocated around Rp 51 billion (US$4.3 million) to pay for monitors for the legislative election in April and presidential election.

“As far as I know, that’s all the money that we will give to the regions. The party has yet to allocate funds for logistical needs,” Agun said.

Akbar also warned Aburizal to fulfill his promise to fund the party’s operations. “There are promises of an endowment fund worth Rp 1 trillion, the construction of a high-rise office block and routine expenditure. I heard there’s trouble in fulfilling that.”

Financial troubles in Aburizal’s group of companies may have affected the party’s coffers.

Golkar, founded by former dictator Soeharto, is the second-largest party after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. It is a key member of Yudhoyono’s coalition camp.

Despite the division and financial troubles, Aburizal remains upbeat over his nomination and over the 30 percent of the vote the party is targeting in the upcoming election. In the 2009 election, Golkar won 14.5 percent of the vote.

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