Novanto case puts Golkar support for Jokowi at stake

JAKARTA • Golkar's support for President Joko Widodo is likely at stake as the party is reportedly preparing a congress over mounting pressure from members calling for an election to replace chairman Setya Novanto, who has been named a graft suspect.

Golkar is the second-biggest party in the 560-member Indonesian Parliament after Mr Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P).

Golkar's deputy secretary-general Ace Hasan Syadzily said on Sunday that the party's executive members would hold a meeting today to respond to issues surrounding Mr Novanto's case, including whether to hold a congress to elect a new leader.

Jakarta-based Voxpol Centre Research and Consulting's executive director Pangi Syarwi Chaniago said on Sunday that political dynamics within Golkar would likely become more fluid if the party held a congress. This was because another politician elected as chairman might be unwilling to join the government coalition.

Previously part of the opposition coalition, Golkar switched its support to Mr Joko's ruling coalition in January last year, significantly shifting the balance of power in South-east Asia's largest nation.

Mr Pangi said there were still factions within Golkar, including those who are not keen to support Mr Joko. The political divisions were set aside with the election of Mr Novanto, who was then considered a neutral candidate.

"The party leadership can be won by any members of Aburizal's faction," he said, referring to businessman Aburizal Bakrie, who in 2015 led a faction against politician Agung Laksono, who had supported Mr Joko.

Mr Aburizal had at the time sided with the opposition alliance in Parliament, led by the Gerindra Party.

"Any of the factions will surely propose their candidates (at the congress)," Mr Pangi said.


Mr Novanto has been detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for questioning over a major scandal involving US$170 million (S$230 million) of stolen state funds.

He is one of the most senior politicians in Indonesia to be detained by the anti-graft agency. KPK officials raided his home last Wednesday in an attempt to arrest him but he was nowhere to be found, sparking fears he had left the country.

He appeared in hospital for treatment a day later, after the vehicle he was in crashed in south Jakarta. He has denied any wrongdoing.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'Novanto case puts Golkar support for Jokowi at stake'. Subscribe