Indonesian presidential aide Moeldoko named head of opposition party, a move challenged by other members

Dr Moeldoko was named as chairman of the Democratic Party on March 5, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - A top aide of Indonesian President Joko Widodo was named chairman of an opposition party on Friday (March 5), in a move that could broaden the President's coalition and tighten his grip on Parliament - although the legitimacy of the move was challenged by other party members.

Dr Moeldoko, the President's chief of staff, was named as chairman of the Democratic Party in an extraordinary congress in North Sumatra province, according to live reports by broadcasters.

The coalition of Jokowi, as the President is popularly known, already controls 74 per cent of the 575 parliamentary seats in South-east Asia's largest economy, and the support of the Democratic Party would give him 9 percentage points more.

But Dr Moeldoko's appointment was challenged by Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who at a news conference late on Friday said he remained the party's chairman.

Mr Agus, the son of Jokowi's predecessor, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is one of a crop of new leaders who could run for the presidency in 2024, according to surveys by private pollsters.

"The extraordinary, illegal and unconstitutional congress was held by a number of members, former members, who conspired with external actors," he said.

Mr Agus urged Jokowi not to certify Dr Moeldoko's appointment and said he would file a complaint to law enforcement agencies.

The government is expected to confirm which party leader will be recognised by the state.

However, some analysts said Jokowi stands to gain from having his senior staff leading the party.

"With Moeldoko at the Democratic Party, the government will be stronger and this is not just a matter of 2024, but today... with this, the government will be very free to design policies related to politics and power," said Mr Hendri Satrio, a political analyst at Paramadina University, though he added that he could not be sure which person's claim to leadership was legitimate.

The Democratic Party was among the minority parties that sought to block Jokowi's flagship Job Creation Law last year.

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