Markus Junianto Sihaloho,Ezra Sihite & Arientha Primanita
Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum’s calm demeanor following a grilling by antigraft officials on Wednesday was a show of defiance to his political detractors, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, analysts say.
Anas was questioned for seven hours by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in connection with bid-rigging allegations surrounding the Rp 2.5 trillion ($265 million) Hambalang sports center being built in Bogor.
Political analyst Ray Rangkuti said Anas’ attitude upon leaving the KPK office was meant to send a message to Yudhoyono, who had been hinting that he would oust Anas from the party chairmanship.
Earlier in the month Yudhoyono held a high-level meeting with Democrat officials and founders, but excluded Anas.
In a reaction that shocked some political observers, Anas responded with a public statement linking the party’s declining popularity to Yudhoyono’s poor governance and not just corruption allegations.
Lending his support to Anas, Yudhoyono’s son, Edhie Baskoro, denied there was a rift in the party, saying Anas’s leadership had been strong.
“SBY has run out of ideas to back Anas into a corner,” Ray said in Jakarta on Wednesday night. “His speech attacking Anas failed to encourage [the Democrat] regional leaders to call for an extraordinary congress [to oust Anas].”
Ray added that the confidence exuded by Anas was an attempt to show he was not involved in the Hambalang case.
He said the move had convinced the party’s regional leaders that he was not involved. Other analysts agreed with Ray.
Gadjah Mada University’s Ari Dwipayana said the appearance was a message to Anas’ rivals that he was still strong.
“With that attitude, Anas was trying to show force. Anas is fully aware that he wasn’t dealing only with a legal case but a case that could be used to oust him from the party chair,” he said.
The attitude, Ari went on, was also intended to suggest he had a strong group of loyalist legislators behind him.
Despite his apparent popularity among some factions within the party, Ari said there were many in the party who wanted Anas face justice over his alleged role in Hambalang. This political support could be needed to solve the case, Ari said.
“So both sides are waiting. This means the opportunity for the KPK to continue [with the probe] is quite big,” he said.
Senior Democrats welcomed the KPK’s questioning of Anas, saying the sooner he was held to account the better.
In a related development, outspoken Democrat legislator Ruhut Sitompul was removed from the House of Representatives’ legal affairs commission after putting pressure on Anas to resign.