The Jakarta Post
Banten Governor and graft suspect Ratu Atut Chosiyah has seen the leadership of the Golkar Party in the province stay in her family's grip after her sister, Ratu Tatu Chasanah, won on Friday the party's regional race for chair by a slight margin.
Held as a part of Golkar's Banten chapter's extraordinary regional meeting (Musdalub), the race set Tatu, now Serang deputy regent, against Cilegon Mayor Tubagus Iman Ariyadi to replace Atut's late husband, Hikmat Tomet, who passed away last month.
From 12 eligible votes ' one representing Golkar's central board, eight representing Golkar's regional branches in Banten and three representing the party's regional support organizations ' Tatu managed to secure six votes, one more than Iman. One vote, meanwhile, was an abstention.
The voting process, which took less than an hour, passed off in a relatively peaceful manner, rebutting a rumor saying that the party was split over the future leadership of its Banten chapter.
Chairwoman of Golkar's Serang branch, Ratu Lilis Karyawati, who is also Atut and Tatu's sister, said she was happy with the result, but quickly denied that Tatu's leadership aimed to protect her family's power in Banten. 'As a sister [to Atut and Tatu], I am really happy with my sister's victory. However, our priority now is to support Golkar to win the upcoming general election.'
Lilis was among a few Musdalub participants who appeared very emotional by Tatu's victory. Lilis confirmed that Golkar's Serang branch had given its vote to Tatu. She denied, however, that the decision was made under her influence.
'The decision was made after a thorough consultation with all the party's regional board members.'
Speaking in a press conference, Tatu said she would work hard to maintain Golkar's popularity in Banten. She also called on Golkar supporters in the province to accept and support her. 'I hope the results of this [chairmanship] race will not divide the party,' she said.
Atut's family network of power in the province has benefited Golkar since she became deputy governor in 2002. However, Atut's arrest has tarnished Golkar's image in Banten, sparking an internal discourse on whether or not a member of Atut's family should chair the position left vacant after Hikmat's death.
Different members of Atut's family control five of Banten's eight regencies and municipalities, including Tatu; her sister-in-law, South Tangerang Mayor Airin Rachmi Diany; her stepbrother, Tubagus Haerul Jaman, who serves as Serang's mayor; and her stepmother, Pandeglang Deputy Regent Heryani. All of them are Golkar politicians.
The KPK named Atut a suspect last week for her role in a bribery case involving former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar in which a favorable court ruling was sought for Lebak Deputy Regent Amir Hamzah, who was backed by Golkar. Lebak is one of Banten's regencies in which Atut has little influence.
Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie reportedly supported Tatu's candidacy, while other senior party figures, such as deputy chairman Fadel Muhammad and former chairman Akbar Tandjung, said they would prefer to see someone outside Atut's family take the party's leadership seat in Banten; a province with 10 million inhabitants that Golkar views as one of its strongholds in the upcoming election.
The last-minute decision to hold the Musdalub at Golkar headquarters also raised suspicions about possible intervention by the party's elite to pave the way for Atut to retain her family's control of the party in Banten.
Golkar's head of research and development, Indra Jaya Piliang, said he believed that Golkar would still benefit from Tatu's victory and her family's political network.
'The question is, does Golkar want to lose half of its potential votes [in Banten] just to please some people, who did not even vote for Golkar?' he said.
Political observer Yunarto Wijaya disagreed, saying that the results of the 2004 and 2009 general elections had shown that there was no correlation between Atut's leadership as Banten governor and Golkar's achievement in the province. 'In 2009, Golkar only secured around 500,000 votes from Banten; far lower than the 900,000 or so that it secured in 2004,' he said.