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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora