New Golkar dismantles old patronage system

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

The move by the ruling Indonesian party sends a signal that it is serious in its efforts to modernise ahead of polls next year, say political observers.

PROVINCIAL delegates of Indonesia’s Golkar party yesterday agreed to eliminate all three of the organisation’s patronage bodies, one of which is headed by former President Suharto.

“All delegations wanted the abolition of the board of patrons, board of councillors and board of advisers from Golkar,” said party vice-chairman Abdul Gafur, who is also leader of the Golkar faction in Parliament.

The decision was taken on the second day of a three-day Golkar congress, called to elect a new chairman and work out ways for the party to survive in the post-Suharto era.

Mr Suharto’s successor, Dr B.J. Habibie, who was handed the presidency after the veteran leader stepped down on May 21, on Thursday urged the congress to review the status of the patronage bodies.

The old board of patrons had veto power over Golkar decisions, and political observers said the move to abolish it was aimed at sending a signal that Golkar was serious in its attempt to modernise party structures ahead of elections next year.

“Golkar wants to create an image of a modern party which is independent of the government and military,” said a Jakarta-based diplomat.

Golkar remains Indonesia’s most powerful political organisation, next to the armed forces (Abri). Its national infrastructure, built up over the last 30 years, is unmatched by other parties.

Analysts said that if a general election were held soon, Golkar would certainly win over the other two minority parties and a plethora of new groups that would be allowed to compete under new legislation.

The diplomat said that the move to abolish the patronage bodies was aimed at “dismantling an old structure which was archaic and revolved around the personality of Mr Suharto”.

It is also believed that linked to this was an attempt to undercut efforts by the Suhartoists to try and influence the party’s political agenda leading up to the general election next year.

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