Aburizal’s Political Support Remains Strong as Bakrie Empire Struggles
Markus Junianto Sihaloho& Ezra Sihite
The Golkar Party has brushed aside growing doubts about its commitment to back chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s presidential bid in 2014, amid speculation that the tycoon’s financial troubles have hurt his standing with party stalwarts.
Setya Novanto, the Golkar chairman at the House of Representatives, said on Friday that the party had no regrets about nominating Aburizal as its candidate, and that talk of the decision being re-evaluated at a national caucus next month was baseless.
He said that while the caucus would address “several substantial issues,” the question of who should be the party’s presidential candidate was not one of them.
Idrus Marham, the Golkar secretary general, insisted that Aburizal’s candidacy was a done deal.
“Let me reiterate: our decision to nominate Aburizal is final and there will be no more debate about this in any forum anywhere,” he said. “The process by which we agreed to nominate him was carried out in a democratic manner and in compliance with [party protocol], so there’s no room anywhere for other candidates to emerge.”
Doubts about Golkar’s support of its chairman emerged following a statement by Ahmadi Noor Supit, the caucus organizing chairman, that a re-evaluation of Aburizal’s suitability to be Golkar’s official candidate in the 2014 presidential election was possible at the Oct. 18-19 caucus.
Setya said he spoke with the senior officials believed to be behind the re-evaluation talk, and that the issue was “not as big as the media is making it out to be.”
Among the party stalwarts who have publicly cast doubt on Aburizal’s suitability is Akbar Tanjung, the chairman of Golkar’s advisory board.
Setya said that while Akbar, the former party chairman, was a powerful and widely-respected figure, he was still bound to the party’s statutes and must respect the official decision to nominate Aburizal.
“Besides, Akbar is on good terms with the chairman. I’ve seen it myself, so I don’t believe there’s any problem,” he said.
Idrus also played down the significance of any rumblings.
“At Golkar there are many figures who would be suitable [for nomination]. You can have four suns, but we’ve decided there will be only one, and that’s Aburizal Bakrie,” he said.
He added Aburizal himself was taking the issue in stride.
The chairman’s bid for the nation’s highest office has also been beset by the financial beating that his companies are taking.
Shares in coal miner Bumi Resources, the crown jewel in the Bakrie business empire, have fallen 61 percent this year to a three-year low, bringing its market value at just Rp 17.4 trillion ($1.8 billion).
Other companies in the Bakrie empire have also suffered. Bakrie Telecom has lost 60 percent in the past year, while Energi Mega Persada, an oil company, dropped 48 percent.
However, Setya denied this, saying that the chairman’s businesses had nothing to do with party affairs.
“As the party treasurer I can assure you that there is no problem,” he said.