The struggle for Chairmanship of the Golkar Party: Will it be Airlangga or Bamsoet?

(photo: Liputan6 Doc.)

IO, Jakarta The selection of a candidate for General Chairman of the Functional Groups (Golongan Karya – “Golkar”) Party, initially to be performed through the usual National Assembly (Musyawarah Nasional – “Munas”) held in December once every 5 years, is to be held early this year. Rumor has it a number of cadres want the Munas to take place earlier, before President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) selects his cabinet in the coming October.

However, the Secretary General of Golkar Party’s Central Leadership Council (Dewan Pimpinan Pusat – “DPP”) Lodewijk Freidrich Paulus, denied this rumor. He stated that the 2019 Munas Golkar will be held along the usual schedule, in December 2019. “Actually, any early Assembly must be made for solid reasons. However, we at DPP see no such reasons,” Lodewijk said after attending a meeting with President Jokowi in the Bogor Presidential Palace on Tuesday (02/07/2019) night.

Lodewijk further stated that the Munas Golkar will still be held in December, as the previous extraordinary highest forum for his party was held on 17 December of last year. “There is no formal ruling for when we should hold the meeting, but we will comply on when to start and when to end. In other words, the common agreement is to hold the Assembly in December,” he said.

This rumor is naturally linked with the struggle for the seat for the General Chairman of Golkar Party. There are at least several names who put themselves up as Candidate General Chairman of the Party, including current General Chairman of Golkar Party Airlangga Hartarto, House Speaker (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) Bambang Soesatyo (“Bamsoet”), Chairman DPR’s Commission III Aziz Syamsuddin, and several other Golkar cadres, such as Ridwan Hisjam, Mahyudin, and Indra Bambang Utoyo.

As the incumbent, Airlangga is said to be the strongest candidate for General Chairman. It is said that Jokowi would feel safe if Golkar is led by Airlangga, who is also the Minister of Industry, especially since Airlangga took all of Golkar’s Regional Leadership Council (Dewan Pimpinan Daerah – “DPD”) I Chairmen to meet Jokowi earlier this year. His welcome of these cadres seems to support the theory that his preference lies with Airlangga.

“The meeting was not held without any special message and context involved. For Golkar, it is clearly a signal that the President supports Pak Airlangga to stand again at the helm of Golkar Party. After all, he is not just the current General Party Chairman, but also a Minister in Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla’s Working Cabinet. They must have good chemistry already established,” said Golkar Party’s Young Activist Network Coordinator Jack Paskalis in his statement in Jakarta on Tuesday (2/7).

Meanwhile, Airlangga only said that President Jokowi hopes that the future leadership of the “Banyan Tree Party” will be strengthened in the future, as Golkar has a great impact towards Indonesia’s political stability, “As well as towards the implementation of development programs. Therefore, Pak President really feels the presence of Golkar Party,” he said.

Other than the “President’s blessing”, Airlangga claimed that many senior Golkar Party cadres still support him for another term as General Chairman through the Munas that will be held in December 2019. “Of course, the senior cadres remain solid, yes, solid in their support of me. Let us see later,” Airlangga said.

Airlangga was not concerned with the demand made by a number of Golkar cadres for an early Munas. According to him, Golkar’s internal convention states that Munas is held in December once every five years, or once for each management term. “Our Party’s Constitution is very clear, and the mechanism is equally clear. We have always held the Munas in December. The current period is 2014-2019, and this convention has been clear even in the days of ARB (Aburizal Bakrie), SN (Setya Novanto), and others,” he said.

Other than Airlangga, a Candidate for Golkar leadership is the Speaker of DPR Bambang Soesatyo (Bamsoet). It is said that Bamsoet has met with several senior Golkar Party politicians to discuss preparations for the next Munas Golkar Party. He also claims that these senior Golkar politicians welcomed his plans to compete in the General Chairmanship contest.

Bamsoet stated that such Golkar senior politicians include people such as Jusuf Kalla (JK), BJ Habibie, and Akbar Tandjung. He stated that he made these visits alongside Airlangga in order to obtain advice nearing the Munas Golkar. He stated that these Golkar seniors told him in these visits not to allow unrest or efforts to divide members to occur in the upcoming Munas Golkar. “Airlangga and I met with JK. He basically stated the same thing, i.e. that he welcomes the contests that are coming in Golkar as they are inevitable. He only added that there should be no conflicts,” he said.

Bamsoet also claimed to have the support of the Cooperative Brotherhood Assembly (Musyawarah Kekeluargaan Gotong Royong – “MKGR”) community organization. MKGR, along with the Indonesian Independent Worker Organizational Center (Sentral Organisasi Karyawan Swadiri Indonesia – “SOKSI”) and the Cooperative Multi-use Organizational Union (Kesatuan Organisasi Serbaguna Gotong Royong – “Kosgoro”) as the three community organizations that originally established Golkar Party. MKGR directly stated its support through its Vice General Chairman, Arman Amir, when he met with Bamsoet in Jakarta. Arman stated that Golkar under Airlangga Hartarto’s leadership has failed to achieve its target of obtaining 110 seats in the DPR RI. In fact, Golkar saw a decrease from 91 seats in the 2014-2019 period to only 85 seats in the 2019-2024 period. 

Arman further stated that the Party’s organizational mechanism did not run smoothly during the 2019 Elections. He stated that there were no Daily Meetings, Plenary Meetings, or Coordination Meetings that could serve as guidance for the Party’s efforts. The National Witness Agency (Badan Saksi Nasional – “BSN”), which was mandated by the results of the National Work Meeting (Rapat Kerja Nasional – “Rakernas”) was also not formed. In such circumstances, Arman said, Golkar Party is lucky to have Legislative Candidates with a high fighting spirit. He said that there is hope that the big family of MKGR envisions Bamsoet, if he should succeed in gaining Golkar leadership, as able to start the tradition of a single-term tenure for General Chairmanship. 

Bamsoet also stated that the reduction of the number of votes Golkar earned in the 2019 Legislative Elections in comparison with the previous elections must be evaluated and resolved. “For example, did all of us in the DPP Golkar, including me, not work hard enough? We are making evaluations to discover what actually caused this loss. Therefore, we will be able to find a formula that would prepare Golkar to recover these lost votes in the future,” Bamsoet said. (Dan)