Golkar’s poor showing blamed on Habibie


Checks with party branches show that the President’s lack of popularity resulted in a vote swing to the PDI-P, says party chairman Akbar Tandjung.

GOLKAR chairman Akbar Tandjung said yesterday that the ruling party’s dismal performance in the election was due to its nomination of incumbent B. J. Habibie as its presidential candidate.

Disclosing Golkar’s preliminary post-mortem of the landmark poll, he told The Straits Times that checks with several party branches in Java and Sumatra showed that the President’s lack of popularity resulted in a vote swing to the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (Struggle).

“I am not wrong in saying that our poor performance was because of Pak Habibie,” he said. “The results would have been much better if we had chosen someone else.”

He blamed the selection on Habibie loyalists who, he said, were still oblivious to changed political circumstances. “Can you believe that one of them said that we would have done even worse if Habibie was not nominated?” he said. “This is unbelievable.”

Mr Akbar held an emergency meeting late on Sunday with Golkar leaders to identify reasons for the party’s first defeat in a general election after 30 years of dominance.

Despite internal discord, he sought to downplay speculation that Habibie loyalists were pushing for a special session to change the make-up of the central executive board – now weighed in favour of Mr Akbar – to prevent a turnaround in Golkar’s choice of the German-trained engineer.

Dr Habibie’s supporters are still confident on the incumbent’s chances of holding on to power for another five years. They maintain that despite Golkar’s electoral loss, it could still garner a large number of the 462 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

Votes do not translate directly into seats. Indonesia’s electoral system over-represents the thinly populated provinces outside Java, areas where Golkar is traditionally strong.

Golkar vice-chairman Marzuki Darusman said that the party could still end up forming a coalition government if it is successful in roping in other political parties.

He said: “We are conceding defeat in terms of electoral count but in terms of forming the next government, the fight is not over yet.

“We are not far behind in terms of the seats we got. We have lost the battle but not the war.”

Mr Akbar disclosed that he already had meetings with the National Awakening Party and the Muslim-oriented United Development Party. Other potential allies included the Crescent Star Party.

He said Golkar would stick to its nomination of Dr Habibie but if its allies rejected him, “what else can we do but follow them”.

“We will have to reconsider and so will the Habibie supporters,” he said. “It is not so easy playing money politics now.” Habibie loyalists, however, appear to be confident of retaining the presidency.

They stress that the fight for the top post was not dependent on the political balance in Parliament. More important, they argue, was the composition of the People’s Consultative Assembly which favoured the party with a stronger showing outside Java.

Presidential adviser Jimly Ashiddiqie was quoted in news reports yesterday as saying that even if Megawati Sukarnoputri’s PDI-P wins 60 per cent of the votes, there was no guarantee she would get the top post.

“If a political party wins a majority of votes, its presidential candidate does not automatically get elected,” he said. “It still depends on whether they can get the support of regional representatives and the military.”

Posted in Indonesia