The Jakarta Post
The rift within the United Development Party (PPP) worsened on Saturday with party leadership concluding that chairman Suryadharma Ali's backing of Prabowo Subianto in the upcoming presidential election was illegitimate.
A meeting, initiated by secretary-general Muchammad Romahurmuziy and attended by more than half of the party's executives, was held only hours after Suryadharma announced the party's support for the Gerindra Party presidential candidate on Friday. It concluded that decisions regarding coalition-building and presidential endorsements should be made in a national leadership meeting.
'Up until now, the PPP has yet to decide on a coalition with any party and any presidential candidate. And as mandated by the national working meeting in Bandung [held in February], PPP will determine a coalition during a national leadership meeting to be held in the near future,' the party said in a statement signed by Romahurmuziy. 'Therefore, Suryadharma's statement of support for Prabowo on Friday contradicts the party's constitution. It is null and void.'
Those attending also blasted Suryadharma's endorsement of Prabowo, saying it was 'a wrong political move' that 'violated ethics' and 'demoralized all party members'.
Also on Saturday, Suryadharma sent text messages to the party's rank and file saying that he had taken over the entire leadership and management of the party and that all decisions and party meetings should be approved by him as party leader.
The messages appear to have been aimed at undermining Romahurmuziy's plan to hold a national leadership meeting, or Rapimnas, on Saturday night. Members of the Suryadharma camp said such a meeting was illegal and they would not take part in it. 'The decisions of the Saturday Rapimnas will be void as the meeting itself did not involve Suryadharma, who should be in charge of such a meeting,' PPP campaign team head Fernita Darwis said, adding that both she and the party's chairman would not attend it.
When this article was written, the meeting was still underway.
The PPP is the first party to have expressed support for Prabowo, believed to be the strongest rival of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo in the July 9 presidential election.
His party came in third in the legislative election, gaining 11 percent of the popular vote, after the PDI-P (around 19 percent) and the Golkar Party (around 15 percent).
Despite its strong showing, Prabowo must secure support from other political parties in order to pass the 25 percent electoral threshold for him to be able to join the presidential race.
On Friday, Suryadharma, who is also religious affairs minister, expressed confidence that there would be no internal movement against the decision to back Prabowo. He claimed the decision had been endorsed by the leader of the PPP's religious council, Maimun Zubair, a highly respected figure within the party.
Suryadharma has been facing the threat of ouster following participation in a major Gerindra rally at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta last month when he expressed his personal support for Prabowo.
In a bold move to quell his detractors, he dismissed several senior party members who had opposed his participation in the rally, including Romahurmuziy.
Romahurmuziy, however, argued that his dismissal and that of other party officials was illegitimate. He also questioned Suryadharma's messages asserting his power as party leader, saying that it was against the party's constitution.
'Anywhere in the world, a party chairman cannot just take control of the party in a way that disregards the party's constitution,' he said.