Race to Head Indonesia's Golkar Party Heats Up

Candidates for the Golkar Party chairmanship are scrambling to secure the support of regional leaders as the competition heats up ahead of the party’s national congress next week. Tommy Suharto, a convicted murdered who is a son of former dictator President Suharto, has reportedly been busy schmoozing regional delegations in Jakarta to share his vision for the party if he were elected chairman. “In one day, two to three delegations come to Tommy in Jakarta,” said Yusyafri Syafei, a close aide and campaign team member for the controversial high-flying businessman. Taking a different tack from the other candidates, who have been visiting the regions to gain support, Yusyafri said that Tommy refused to expose his strategy and only conducted closed-door meetings. Tommy, he said, had inherited a lot of clout from his father, who had dominated Golkar during his New Order regime, and did not need to seek more popularity by visiting the regions. “We’re using a stealth strategy. We don’t need to claim support we already have. The important thing is how the regions will choose Tommy in the party congress,” Yusyafri said, claiming the provincial and district leaders came to Tommy on their own initiative. “There is a soul connection between the district chairmen and Tommy because of his father,” he said. During the party congress, the candidates will need to get the support of the 33 provincial branch chairmen, 470 district branch chairmen and 10 Golkar organizational wings. Another young candidate, Yuddy Chrisnandi, visited West Kalimantan, Bali and West Nusa Tenggara over the weekend to meet with branch leaders. He said he stood out in the field of candidates because he took the initiative to contact the branches and was invited to meet with them. Separately, Surya Paloh visited Semarang in Central Java, Padang in West Sumatra and Palembang in South Sumatra over the weekend to promote his candidacy. Paloh officially received the support of 19 district branch chairmen in Padang, who declared their support for him on Sunday. Branch chairmen in Papua, South Sulawesi, Java and West Sumatra also announced their support for him during his visit to each of their provinces. Paloh, a media mogul, had previously declared that if he were elected party chairman, he would ensure the party’s independence and not join the next cabinet. In Makassar, South Sulawesi, Paloh met with the current Golkar chairman, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, although Kalla denied that the meeting meant he was offering support. Kalla said he wanted to be neutral and did not back any candidate. Paloh praised Kalla’s stance. “Kalla is a party chairman who can maintain party unity,” he said.

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