Indonesia's Jokowi Gets Boost As Golkar Party Declares Support

  • Move could make it easier for Jokowi to get laws passed
  • Golkar didn't say it was formally joining the ruling coalition

Indonesia’s second-largest party has declared its support for President Joko Widodo, potentially smoothing the path this year for planned legislation ranging from revised anti-terrorism laws to improving financial system stability.

The party, which is split between rival factions fighting for its leadership, announced the decision late Monday. It doesn’t commit Golkar to formally joining the ruling coalition, though it means supporters of the president, known as Jokowi, have a majority in the parliament.

“The Golkar party hereby declares its support and togetherness with the administration of Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla,” it said in a statement read out at a meeting of party leaders in Jakarta which was attended by at least three government ministers. A government spokesman wasn’t immediately reachable for comment.

Since backing a losing presidential candidate in 2014, Golkar has been split between two camps: One run by tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, the other by former parliament speaker Agung Laksono, who did not attend Monday’s meeting.

Both claim to be the rightful leader and are petitioning the courts and the minister of justice for recognition. Laksono was voted the head of Golkar at a rival meeting last year. Bakrie made the announcement on Monday.

Political scientist Arbi Sanit said it appears the declaration was Bakrie’s way of soliciting government backing for his leadership of the party. As such it might not translate into solid or long-lasting support for Jokowi, he said.

Sympathy ‘Tactic’

“This is a tactic to get sympathy from the government,” Sanit said. “It doesn’t mean this will mean full support or loyalty. It could change if Golkar’s interests aren’t aligned with Jokowi’s.”

Parliament last year passed three bills into law, the lowest total in at least the last five years, according to the Jakarta Post. The 560-seat body has prioritized the passage of 40 new laws or amendments this year.

The anti-terrorism law revisions follow deadly attacks this month in Jakarta by Islamist militants. The financial safety net law, which Jokowi’s government aimed to pass last year, will regulate bailouts for banks in the event of financial crises.

“This will certainly smooth his relations with parliament and help passing the revised budget and his legislative agenda,” said Arie Sudjito, an associate professor in sociology at Gadjah Mada University. “But Jokowi is aware that there is little chemistry between Golkar and his supporters.”

He said being in opposition could limit Golkar’s influence and access to business opportunities. That left the party, which supported former dictator Suharto during his 32-year rule, at risk of running short of money, he said.

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