News / Asia

Indonesia Golkar Party Clings to Unpopular Presidential Candidate

FILE - Aburizal Bakrie cycling with his party members in Jakarta, Oct. 21, 2012.
FILE - Aburizal Bakrie cycling with his party members in Jakarta, Oct. 21, 2012.
Reuters
Indonesia's second biggest political party has stood behind its candidate for next year's presidential election despite fears among some members that the controversial tycoon was far too unpopular among voters to stand any chance of winning.

Most opinion polls show that the chairman of the former ruling Golkar party, Aburizal Bakrie, would win less than 10 percent of the vote in July and party lawmakers acknowledge they have their work cut out to get the wealthy businessman into the presidential palace.

“His image of being a very successful business mogul doesn't go very far with regular voters,” said Hermawan Sulistyo, political analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

“He's a liability for Golkar, which otherwise would get pretty good support in legislative elections.”

But legislators, speaking on Monday after the party's weekend gathering to confirm Bakrie as their candidate, said they expected their party to do well enough in April's parliamentary election to have a powerful voice in who will next lead the world's third largest democracy after India and the United States.

Presidential candidates must have the backing of a party, or parties, with at least 20 percent of the seats in parliament or 25 percent of the national vote for parliament. Golkar won 14.45 percent of the 2009 votes for parliament, and just over 19 percent of the seats.

“We are one of the biggest and oldest parties and we have strong grassroots support... We're targeting 33 percent or 186 seats in parliament next year,” said one senior Golkar MP, Tantowi Yahya.

Golkar became the parliamentary rubber stamp of the long authoritarian rule of former general Suharto, who rose to power in 1965 and ruled until he was forced to step down in 1998, dragging down with him the fortunes of the party he created.

But Golkar made use of its organizational reach across the archipelago to rebuild its standing even though many of its aging leaders owe their political rise to Suharto.

“Long way to go”

Suharto's rule became a byword for the graft that made Indonesia one of the world's most corrupt nations, a label it has had no success in shaking off after 15 years of democracy.

“We have a long way to go. We have to improve support from the regions and the regional leaders,” another Golkar MP, Harry Azhar Aziz, said of efforts to improve Bakrie's electability.

Bakrie and his brothers head the Bakrie Group, one of whose main assets is Bumi Resources, Asia's biggest thermal coal exporter which was involved with the Rothschild banking dynasty in a tie-up which fell apart in a very public dispute. The deal is still being unwound.

His conglomerate has faced heavy criticism for its links to a huge mud flow in East Java that destroyed homes and swaths of farmland. Bakrie had a controlling share in the drilling company blamed for triggering the mudflow.

Recent polls have consistently shown Jakarta's charismatic governor, Joko Widodo, whose political roots have nothing to do with the Suharto era, is the man most Indonesians would like to be their next leader, after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's second and final five-year term ends.

Yudhoyono's own ruling party has sunk badly in popularity, damaged by graft scandals involving senior members, and what appears to be growing disillusion with the former general's leadership as economic growth starts to falter.

Widodo, popularly known as “Jokowi,” however has not declared his candidacy, nor has the party he is affiliated with, the opposition PDI-P, said whether it will back him. That decision largely rests with former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country's founding ruler and who dominates the party.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs