A top Democratic Party official has denied speculation of a growing rift between party chairman Anas Urbaningrum and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the party’s chief patron.
Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, who chairs the party at the House of Representatives, said on Tuesday that there was “no disagreement between SBY and Anas.”
“Anas, as the chairman of the executive board, is really respected by SBY because SBY is someone who is very law-abiding,” she said.
She also said that when she was named the party’s House chairwoman last month, Yudhoyono told her to be loyal to both him and Anas.
Nurhayati’s remarks come amid mounting speculation about a growing divide between the ruling party’s two top officials in connection with corruption revelations in which Anas has been implicated.
The speculation was fanned by Anas’s absence from a key meeting hosted by Yudhoyono last week for senior Democratic officials and party founders.
The closed meeting was reportedly held to discuss what to do about Anas and other top Democrats implicated in graft cases. Polls show that the party has taken a severe hit in popularity in recent months, largely because of these cases.
In an apparent swipe at the president, though, Anas said on Monday that the key to reviving the Democrats’ fortunes lay with Yudhoyono and his administration.
He said it was important that Yudhoyono re-establish the party as a major player ahead of the 2014 legislative and presidential elections.
“The way to do that is by making sure that the administration of President Yudhoyono continues to improve its performance and prompts an increase in the public’s level of satisfaction,” he said.
His statement came on the same day that the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) released the results of a poll of 1,200 respondents, showing a decline of more than 9 percent in the Democratic Party’s electability from January 2011.
At that time, 20.5 percent of respondents said they would vote for the party.
This month, however, the support for the Democrats was down to just 11.3 percent. The Golkar Party came out ahead with 20.9 percent, followed by the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) with 14 percent.
Political analysts said Anas’s comments about Yudhoyono came as a surprise and indicated that the hostilities had spilled over into the open.
“It’s a surprise that he could say something like that,” said Fachry Ali from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
“It’s just very unusual for Javanese leaders to bring an internal conflict into the open. This means that the rift between them must be widening.”
Other observers said Anas might have an ace up his sleeve that could implicate Yudhoyono’s son, Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro.
Anas’s statement, they said, could be a reaction to Yudhoyono’s reported move to dismiss him, as well as an appeal to party supporters whose support he had worked hard to cultivate.