Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie avoided further humiliation from his own party regarding his ambition to secure at least a number two position in the country's presidential race by joining the bandwagon of presidential frontrunner Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo on Tuesday.
Rival presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, earlier bluntly turned down an offer from Aburizal to join his coalition on the condition that he would become Prabowo's running mate in the July 9 presidential election. Aburizal's attempt to join the presidential race was also opposed from within the party itself, notably by former Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung.
On the same day, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gave his blessing to family member Hatta Rajasa to resign as coordinating economic minister and become Prabowo's running mate. Yudhoyono's son, Edhi 'Ibas' Baskoro Yudhoyono, is married to Hatta's daughter Siti Rubi Aliya Rajasa. The marriage has often been described as a 'political decision'.
Surrounded by Golkar's top leaders, including Luhut Panjaitan, Setya Novanto, Idrus Marham and Fadel Muhammad, during a press conference at the Gembrong Market in Johor, Central Jakarta, Jokowi made it very clear that he and his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), were in command.
'When [our ideas] met at the same point, it meant teamwork, but with the condition that we want to maintain the purity of the cooperation. There is no discussion about vice presidential candidates, or about ministers. We want to keep the purity of the teamwork,' said Jokowi.
Aburizal's decision, however, does not mean that the party's political machine will work to ensure a win for Jokowi on a regional level, because politicians in Jakarta and in the regions have different interests.
The business tycoon who, like Jokowi, wore a white shirt during Tuesday's announcement, hinted that he did not have any specific requirements for the PDI-P, but was apparently 'betting' that his party could have more say in Jokowi's Cabinet if he won the July 9 presidential election.
'What is important, as I have repeatedly explained, is that the president or vice president is just an instrument to achieve people's welfare,' said the chairman of Golkar, which took second place in April's legislative election after the PDI-P.
While avoiding an explicit announcement that his party had decided to join the PDI-P coalition, Aburizal confirmed the decision. 'Insya Allah [God willing] everything has already been agreed on for the coalition.' He added that he would meet PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri to further discuss the details of the parties' arrangement.
Jokowi showed his trademark populist style by choosing a traditional market as the venue to announce the coalition. Both he and Aburizal described the meeting at the market as highlighting their 'common alignment for the people's economy'.
Golkar's decision to join the NasDem Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB) in the PDI-P coalition was made only hours after Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa tendered his resignation to President Yudhoyono.
Separately, Zainal Bintang, a senior Golkar executive who is known for his opposition to Aburizal, criticized Aburizal's move to join Jokowi's camp. 'Aburizal's sudden maneuver to approach Jokowi is an insult to Golkar because it had not been discussed within the party itself,' Zainal said.
Golkar politician Tantowi Yahya said the party had yet to discuss any returns from joining the PDI-P alliance.
Meanwhile, Hatta, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) told the press that he wanted 'to give good political education', shortly after he formally submitted his resignation during a closed-door meeting with Yudhoyono, accompanied by Prabowo.
The nomination of Hatta may trigger an internal rift among the Gerindra coalition, as politicians from the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) claim that Gerindra had yet to formally inform them about the move, and they were still expecting to endorse vice presidential candidates of their own.
However, PPP chairman Suryadharma Ali, who is also religious affairs minister, emphasized that his party fully supported Prabowo in his choice of vice presidential candidate. The PKS had expressed its interest in offering one of its party members as Prabowo's running mate.