Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Rizky Amelia & SP/Robertus Wardi
While a series of recent surveys show that Golkar will win the 2014 election, chairman Aburizal Bakrie, who on Friday was named the party’s presidential candidate, trails other figures in several polls.
Realizing that he has to boost his popularity as early as possible to have a chance of competing for the country’s top job with other contenders, Aburizal had been trying to force the party to name him as its only presidential candidate since late last year.
“We don’t want to be late. Golkar must decide its candidate now so that we have at least two years to boost our electability,” Aburizal told reporters during the party’s four-day national meeting in Bogor. “I accept the nomination to be the party’s presidential candidate.”
All of the party’s heavyweights and regional leaders attended the meeting.
Aburizal’s efforts to push his way through, however, has created tension inside the party, with old guards like former chair Akbar Tandjung showing disdain.
Akbar stated that he could do nothing to stop Aburizal’s ambition, and warned that such an “undemocratic” method of appointment could hurt the party’s image as a democratic and open party, thus lessening its chances of winning the election.
Muntasir Hamid, the chairman of Golkar’s Social Network Forum of Regional Chapter Boards, threatened earlier to push for an extraordinary congress if the party continued to insist on Aburizal as its presidential candidate.
According to Muntasir, there is far from unanimous support for an Aburizal candidacy, as several other officials at the regional level have also rejected the central board’s decision.
But Aburizal seems to be able to control regional branch heads with the idea of an extraordinary congress not being able to get wide support. The central board managed to push through the proposal to nominate the business tycoon.
Aburizal said that by nominating a presidential candidate now, the party was able to deal with internal conflict early, rather than during the election cycle.
“By having a definitive candidate now, we can focus ourselves on solidifying the party and winning the election rather than being trapped by disagreement near election time,” he said.
Some political analysts have also pointed out that with the early nomination, Aburizal and Golkar have plenty of time to look for a coalition partner and running mate to strengthen their chances.
Aburizal on Thursday named potential vice presidential candidate, including Mahfud M.D., chairman of the Constitutional Court; Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X; East Java Governor Sukarwo; Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, who is an Army Chief and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s brother in law; and Khofifah Indar Parawansa, a politician from the National Awakening Party (PKB), and chairwoman of the women’s wing of the country’s largest Islamic organization in the country, Nahdlatul Ulama.
“If he can get Yudhoyono’s blessing to get Pramono then he can combine the country’s two biggest parties, Democratic and Golkar,” said Fachry Ali, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.
However, as the party held a meeting in Bogor, senior party members Zulkarnaen Djabar, Setya Novanto and Kahar Muzakir were implicated in graft cases.