Indonesia’s Jokowi Bobs Upright

Indonesia’s Jokowi Bobs Upright

Jokowi and Bakrie: chums or bumping heads?

Political realignment may vanquished rivals and strengthen the chief


Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo may be the beneficiary of an astonishing trifecta, according to analysts in Jakarta who say that political rival Aburizal Bakrie, the head of Golkar, the country’s oldest political party, and Megawati Sukarnoputri, who heads Joko’s own Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, have been neutralized and that major parties may yet consolidate behind him.

Fears that the opposition, led by Golkar and Gerindra, would dominate the legislature and derail the Joko presidency have not materialized. Instead Megawati and PDIP have proven to be the biggest political roadblock facing the president.

Now, changes at the top in Golkar could bring that party into line with Joko and also help move Gerindra, headed by ex-General and losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, and the Democratic Party of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, into the government’s camp, at least on a de-facto basis.

Prabowo and Joko have publicly kissed and made up for the cameras. The National Democrats, headed by Bakrie foe and ex-Golkar member Surya Paloh, is already in Joko’s coalition.

Ex-President Megawati, who in effect loaned her party to Jokowi, as he is known, to get him elected last July, and then demanded the right to name a preponderance of his cabinet and government officials, may no longer hold sway when the dust clears.

The key is Golkar, which has been tearing itself apart since late last year with two rival chairmen, Agung Laksono, allied with Jokowi, and Bakrie, the billionaire businessman who for years has used Golkar and government favors to support his business interests, battling for control. Bakrie’s decision to support Prabowo, the losing presidential candidate in the 2014 election, caused the rift, which has only deepened.

In addition, Golkar, the political chariot of the late strongman Suharto, who ran the country for 31 years until 1998, has never been in opposition and its tendency is to side with the presidency. Jokowi’s natural allies within the Golkar orbit include former Golkar Chairman Jusuf Kalla, his vice president, Surya Paloh and even Prabowo and Yudyhoyono, both of whom left Golkar to start their own parties.

Having alienated much of his party in the presidential election, Bakrie attempted to ram through his own re-election as party chief, but ran into opposition from Agung Laksono, an acerbic former speaker of the House of Representatives and later Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare. The two held separate conventions which elected each as competing party chairmen. But in a move widely criticized at the time, the National Democrats, headed by Surya, an Indonesian media tycoon, were given the power by Jokowi to name the attorney general and the justice minister, who now may get to “choose” Agung as the winner and settle the dispute through government channels.

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