'New, clean' Golkar gives Jokowi full polls support

Golkar's success at recovering from the graft scandals will be critical to President Joko Widodo's bid for re-election as he once again faces former army general Prabowo Subianto, whom he defeated in 2014.
Golkar's success at recovering from the graft scandals will be critical to President Joko Widodo's bid for re-election as he once again faces former army general Prabowo Subianto, whom he defeated in 2014.PHOTO: AFP

Party still a strong force in Indonesia despite ex-leaders' scandals: Chairman

Golkar, the party that once controlled Indonesia for three decades until the fall of strongman Suharto, remains a formidable political force today despite graft scandals embroiling two former leaders, chairman Airlangga Hartarto said yesterday.

He added that under his stewardship, the "new and clean" Golkar can continue to provide the political stability Indonesia needs to move forward, even as the party seeks to better engage youth voters through social media ahead of the presidential and legislative elections on April 17.

"What happened was a 'carry-over' problem," he said, referring to the corruption charges against his predecessor, Setya Novanto, and former Golkar secretary-general Idrus Marham, which dogged the party in recent years.

The two separate cases, however, have not hit Golkar as hard outside Jakarta in terms of voter support, according to Mr Airlangga, who took over from Setya in December 2017.

"I think it is because we have, in the past one year, informed people that this Golkar is a new, clean Golkar, with different governance," he said.

Mr Airlangga, who is Indonesia's Industry Minister, was speaking at a rare public dialogue with members of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club yesterday.

He continues to believe that Golkar, with its long history in producing and developing capable leaders, is key to ensuring political stability in Indonesia and cited the party's role in the ruling governments from 2004, after direct elections were first held in Indonesia.

 
 
 
 

"In the beginning of the Jokowi presidency, Golkar... was not in government, so for two years it was not easy to implement its programmes," said Mr Airlangga, referring to President Joko Widodo's popular moniker.

"But when Golkar supported the President in the last three years... it has been more smooth sailing for the government, that's why most of its programmes were achieved."

Notwithstanding the corruption scandals, Golkar can still command the goodwill of voters, particularly older Indonesians, many of whom still reminisce about the relative stability and prosperity of the early Suharto years, and when the country was effectively a one-party state from 1971 to 1999.

Golkar's success at recovering from the graft scandals will be critical to Mr Joko's bid for re-election as he once again faces former army general Prabowo Subianto, whom he defeated in 2014.

This time the President will have Golkar behind him after the party joined the ruling coalition in 2016 - a game-changing move for Mr Joko that allowed him to take control of Parliament and push through his policy reforms.

Golkar, which currently has the second-largest presence in Parliament after the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, is part of a massive coalition that nominated Mr Joko for the presidential race.

Mr Airlangga has promised that Golkar will pull out all the stops, especially in its regional strongholds such as West Java, which has the largest electorate, to ensure that the President wins big.

"Five years ago, Golkar was with Prabowo, and that's why Prabowo won in West Java," he said. "But we have switched camp, and that is why we are confident that now Jokowi will win in West Java.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline ''New, clean' Golkar gives Jokowi full polls support'. Print Edition | Subscribe