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Fight for Golkar leadership could impact Jokowi's govt

The tussle for the chairmanship of Indonesia's Golkar party is underway, with two of the party's heavyweights eyeing the position. The party is currently torn between keeping their support for Prabowo Subianto, or joining President-elect Joko Widodo' incoming government.

JAKARTA: Coordinating Welfare Minister Agung Laksono and Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat are the front-runners to take the helm of Golkar. Mr Laksono wants Golkar to support President-elect Joko Widodo, while Mr Hidayat aims to keep Golkar under the Red-White Coalition led by Prabowo Subianto.

Tantowi Yahya, legislator with the Golkar Party, said: "What is interesting in the next election is that this is the battle between the candidates that portray the mission of Golkar as within the government or outside the government. So the battle is between these two choices and right now, the party is split on the issue."

Several groups of Golkar executives have begun pushing to expedite a National Congress initially scheduled for April 2015 to October this year in the hope of ousting current chairman Aburizal Bakrie. They hope to replace Mr Aburizal before the Presidential inauguration in October so the party can join the new government. Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla, a senior Golkar politician, is also a pull factor for Golkar members to join Mr Widodo's bandwagon.

Poempida Hidayatulloh, another Golkar Party legislator, said: "Most of the Golkar cadres in the region actually want Golkar to support the winning government, which is Jokowi and JK. Because like it or not, Jusuf Kalla is one of the best cadres of the Golkar party. It is worth supporting a Golkar cadre instead of supporting somebody else's."

Tobias Basuki, a political analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: "Golkar politicians, as we've seen, have been showing a strong indication that they want to jump ship towards Jokowi's camp and be part of the government."

The Golkar Party has always been part of the ruling government since it was established. As it stands now, it holds around 16 per cent of the 560 seats and is the second largest party in Parliament. If Golkar decides to stay as the opposition for the first time in its history, its legislators - along with others in Mr Prabowo's coalition - could make it harder for Joko Widodo to carry out his policy reforms. If they join Mr Widodo, it would help create a stronger government.