Tough job ahead for Bambang

With defeat all but certain, Golkar and Mega’s party gear up for opposition role.

As former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looked all but certain to become Indonesia’s next president, his opponents yesterday began lining up their forces against him.

Two of the country’s largest parties – Golkar and President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) – have started talks on countering Mr Bambang in Parliament, despite peace overtures on his part.

With almost two-thirds of the ballots counted last night, the official tally had him winning 60 per cent, to Ms Megawati’s 40 per cent.

Despite his popular backing, Mr Bambang has to work with an incoming Parliament where Ms Megawati’s coalition holds 307 of the 550 seats.

On Monday night, he sought reconciliation with the rival camp, reaching out with an offer to work together in the national interest.

This was given the brush-off by Mr Akbar Tandjung, chairman of Golkar, the country’s biggest party and a member of the Megawati coalition.

Mr Akbar told The Straits Times: ‘We don’t need any Cabinet positions. We will play the role of the loyal opposition to keep a check on his government.’

Yesterday, Mr Akbar huddled with top Golkar aides for a lunch meeting at which there was only one talking point: How to make life difficult for President Bambang.

Last night, the Golkar chief met Ms Megawati and her husband Taufik Kiemas at their home in South Jakarta to hone the plan.

The alliance proposed by Mr Akbar includes the same parties that backed Ms Megawati for the presidency.

Besides Golkar and PDI-P, it will also feature the Muslim-based United Development Party and the small Prosperous Peace Party.

But splits within Golkar and PDI-P are deepening, blunting the force of their threat.

Significantly also, Mr Bambang’s continued strong showing in the polls is strengthening his hand in dealing with a potentially hostile legislature, where his Democrat Party-based alliance has only 103 seats.

Mr Rachmat Witoelar, one of Mr Bambang’s political advisers, said: ‘The idea of a grand coalition is just an illusion. It is no big deal.

‘They don’t trust each other and they can’t work together. The presidential election provides the best empirical proof of this. How then can you see them ganging up against the president?’

Mr Akbar concedes the point. ‘That is my concern. Some of the legislators might be offered lucrative positions and could switch sides. Bambang is trying to break us up,’ he said.

Factional rivalry in Golkar and PDI-P may well be a powerful weapon for Mr Bambang, allowing him to tap a large number of disaffected elements in the two parties to push his agenda through Parliament.

Going beyond that, Mr Bambang’s aides hope to have Mr Akbar replaced by a more sympathetic Golkar leader.

Given the dissension in the party, they see him as vulnerable to being ousted from its leadership if enough Golkar members could be convinced to vote him out at their party congress in December.

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