The Jakarta Post
Since its establishment by then president Soeharto in the early 1970s Golkar has always played a key role in the major political events of the country.
But in the last few days the runner up in the April legislative elections experienced severe humiliation after its chairman's offers to join their respective coalitions as vice-presidential candidate were rejected by the two presidential candidates and their party supporters.
In a face-saving attempt, Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie visited former president and the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Megawati Soekarnoputri at her Menteng residence on Sunday evening.
In a previous meeting with her, Aburizal had raised the possibility of becoming the running mate of the party's presidential candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo. On Sunday night, however, Aburizal merely asked for a written guarantee from Megawati that Golkar would get several Cabinet seats should Jokowi win the July 9 presidential race.
Earlier on Sunday Aburizal had looked confident when he appeared before hundreds of Golkar regional representatives during an executive meeting, or Rapimnas. The meeting, besides giving him the mandate to decide on Golkar's coalition path, also named him the only person that could be officially nominated as Golkar's presidential or vice-presidential candidate.
Nonetheless Aburizal left Megawati's residence empty handed. 'We cannot accept any additional coalition member particularly when that party [Golkar] asked for a political transaction,' said Hasto Kristiyanto, deputy secretary of the PDI-P.
'Aburizal tried to use the mandate given to him by the Rapimnas as a negotiating ploy with Megawati, but it was rejected,' Golkar senior politician Zainal Bintang said of Aburizal's failure.
Then Aburizal Bakrie made a last-minute move to join the Gerindra Party camp. On Sunday everning, Gerindra's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto visited Aburizal at his Menteng residence. As an apparent 'consolation prize' for the business tycoon, the founder of Gerindra offered Golkar two Cabinet seats. He specifically offered a 'senior ministerial' position for Aburizal himself, an offer politely 'turned down' by Aburizal.
'I myself asked him [Aburizal] to become a senior minister but he rejected my offer,' said the former son-in-law of the late Soeharto. A few hours earlier, former coordinating economic minister Hatta Rajasa had been officially declared Prabowo's running mate
Aburizal's exchange of Golkar's electoral power for only two ministerial seats intensified the already-heated internal dissent within Golkar and was described as a mistake by numerous Golkar politicians who accused Aburizal of 'panicking' for accepting what they regarded as the meager compensation offered by Gerindra.
'Golkar sold cheap. Aburizal rejected the aspiration expressed by Golkar members nationwide in Sunday's national executive meeting, which preferred a coalition with the PDI-P and to support Jokowi-Kalla,' Golkar executive Poempida Hidayatulloh said. He was referring to Jokowi and his running mate former vice president Jusuf Kalla who is also a former Golkar chairman.
Poempida, who has opted to serve as Kalla's spokesman, claimed that many other Golkar members were also disappointed by Aburizal's move and planned to jump ship.
Meanwhile, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono realized that he had to face the rise and fall of his Democratic Party. The party had won two consecutive terms of office for Yudhoyono but since then many of the party executives have faced corruption scandals.
This time Yudhoyono has chosen not to support any presidential candidates. His bitter experience in dealing with Golkar as a member of his ruling coalition was apparently behind his decision to reject an offer by Aburizal to set up their own coalition.
'We could not reach an agreement [with Golkar],' said Democratic Party executive chairman Syariefuddin Hassan on Monday.
The President invited Prabowo to his private residence in Cikeas, West Java, on Monday evening.
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