Anticipating a Jokowi win in Indonesia, rivals consider switching sides

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Reuters

  • Kanupriya Kapoor and Wilda Asmarini, Reuters
  • Jul. 15, 2014, 7:26 AM
  • 66

Indonesia presidential candidate Joko
Indonesia presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo
listens to a question during an interview with Reuters
in
Thomson
Reuters

By Kanupriya Kapoor and Wilda Asmarini

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s likely next leader Joko “Jokowi”
Widodo may find a friendlier parliament to help push through a
reform agenda in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, as several
members of the second-largest party consider joining his camp.

About 10 top officials from the Golkar party said at a Tuesday
news briefing that it should drop support for Jokowi’s rival,
ex-general Prabowo Subianto, and back Jokowi if the Jakarta
governor is declared winner of last week’s disputed election.

Both candidates claimed victory in the July 9 election, the
closest ever in the world’s third-biggest democracy and most
populous Muslim nation. The Elections Commission is due to
announce the official result around July 22.

The defection of members of Golkar to Jokowi could be pivotal for
him as it could give him a majority in parliament. Without
Golkar, those supporting Jokowi command less than 40 percent of
the seats.

Quick vote counts by private groups, which have proven accurate
in the past, put Jokowi ahead by about five points. Prabowo,
however, has rejected the tallies, pointing to other, less
prominent pollsters that show he won.

To switch sides, Golkar members said they would need to oust
party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, who pledged his “permanent”
support for Prabowo along with other coalition members at a rally
in Jakarta on Monday.

“If we change the party leadership, then we will automatically
support Jokowi,” said senior party official Fahmi Idris, who was
at Tuesday’s briefing.

Political partnerships are fleeting in Indonesia’s young
democracy, which emerged 16 years ago from decades of autocratic
rule. Politicians and parties often change alliances depending on
who is in power.

Golkar, the dominant party for decades under former autocrat
Suharto, has switched sides in the past. In the 2004 election, it
was opposed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono but joined the
coalition of his ruling Democratic Party shortly after he won.

“Golkar has no interest in being an opposition party,” Idris
said.

RIFTS

There was no sign that the Golkar members had reached out to
Jokowi or to his PDI-P party, and no word on how they might
respond. Some Golkar parliamentarians said they would wait for
the official election result.

“If Jokowi wins, yes then we should support Jokowi,” Agung
Laksono, Golkar’s deputy chairman, told reporters last week.
Laksono is one of the candidates being considered to replace
Bakrie as chairman.

Bakrie denied the party would switch sides.

“If you look at the organization, who has the votes?” Bakrie told
reporters on Monday. “I understand that the people (who want to
go to the other side) are people who do not have the votes in the
party.”

But some Golkar members said the party should back a Jokowi
administration as his vice president would be Jusuf Kalla, a
senior Golkar official and former head of the party.

“As loyal party cadres, it’s only natural that we hope the ticket
with a Golkar member is successful. We hope the next Golkar
leadership will support Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla,” said Ginandjar
Kartasasmita, a senior party official.

Kartasasmita said he had the support of the majority of Golkar
members, but fewer than a dozen senior party officials were at
Tuesday’s briefing.

Before the election, Golkar was widely expected to back Jokowi
because he had made Kalla his running mate.

But Bakrie ended up siding with Prabowo after the candidate
promised a senior cabinet position and at least six other
ministerial jobs in return for Golkar’s support.

That has caused rifts within Golkar, forcing Bakrie last month to
expel a handful of members who vocally backed Jokowi.

Golkar needs support from two-thirds of the party’s provincial
chapters to call an emergency meeting for a leadership vote. A
chairman will be chosen by a simple majority.

(Additional reporting Gayatri Suroyo; Writing by Randy Fabi;
Editing by Robert Birsel)


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