The Democratic Party’s popularity will continue to crumble as long as graft-embattled Anas Urbaningrum remains chairman, a polling analyst says.
Refly Harun, executive director of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), said that by retaining Anas, the party gives the public the impression it is reneging on the strong antigraft rhetoric that helped it win the 2009 national elections.
“As long as Anas continues to play a public role, it will be hard for the Democrats,” he said on Monday.
“Politics is all about perception. Regardless of whether the allegations against Anas are true, the voters already perceive him as being involved [in corruption].”
Anas has been implicated, though not charged, in bid-rigging in connection to the construction of the Rp 2.5 trillion ($260 million) Hambalang sports center.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which has already named another Democrat, former Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, a suspect in the case, is expected to charge Anas soon.
The Democrats won 20.9 percent of votes in the last legislative election, but polls in recent months indicate they will struggle to break double digits in 2014.
Refly said the only way to reverse their slide, to about 8 percent, was for Anas to go. That, he said, could happen in two ways:
“First, the party could wait for an announcement by the KPK on Anas’s legal status,” he said, adding that if Anas was named a suspect, the party could easily justify replacing him.
“The second option is for Anas himself to step down and make way for another leader who is perceived as being less tainted by corruption.”
He added that the party could not afford to waste time addressing the problem, given that the election is just over a year away and it will take a lot of time and effort to reverse the damage caused by graft scandals involving not just Anas but also other senior party members.
“The bottom line is that as long as Anas remains the chairman, things won’t get better. And the Hambalang scandal is a boon for the other political parties to use against the Democrats ahead of the election,” Refly said.
However, party officials claim the party can bounce back if the KPK decides it will not name Anas a suspect.
Sutan Bhatoegana, a senior Democrat, said the party was “praying that he isn’t named a suspect.”
“If the KPK decides he wasn’t involved [in the Hambalang case], then our poll numbers will shoot up,” he said.
Additional reporting by Carlos Paath