Fri, 23 Feb 2001

Is political rivalry behind the campaign against Golkar?

There have been many demands to dissolve Golkar lately, on which The Jakarta Post talked to lecturer in politics Bambang Cipto of the Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University.

Question: Are demands to dissolve Golkar still relevant given that Golkar is a legal party which won the second most votes in the last election?

Answer: This largely depends on the angle from which we look at the problem. The main goal of Nahdlatul Ulama (Islamic organization, earlier chaired by President Abdurrahman Wahid) or the National Awakening Party (PKB, founded by Gus Dur) and the Democratic People's Party (PRD, reportedly supportive of Gus Dur) in making such demands is actually not the dissolving of Golkar.

Demands are instead aimed at lowering Golkar's legitimacy. They hope this will give (their respective parties) more votes in the next election. The East Java rallies aimed to raise similar demands in other regions and therefore keep away voters' sympathy from Golkar.

Wouldn't that be counterproductive for both PKB and PRD?

I don't think so, especially from PRD's point of view. PRD is only a small party, almost without supporters. Therefore, people will not hear whatever move they make unless they use popular demands such as reminding people of Golkar's "black" reputation.

NU or PKB seem to have the same goal of widening their constituency from mainly East Java to other parts of the country.

By cornering Golkar, they hope to get more sympathy from the voters, although the East Java incidents (involving vandalism of Golkar offices and Muhammadiyah organization schools) has in fact reduced their good image ...

In today's era, I think it's valid for them to conduct such moves (appealing to voters of rival parties). It now depends on how Golkar smartly faces the move. Golkar has so far been successful. It even gained advantage from the incident. The more it is cornered the more sympathy it will get.

Whether it is counterproductive in the sense that it will affect votes in the next election, I'd rather say it wouldn't, because PKB's constituents are mostly irrational voters.

The impact would be different if voters of the National Mandate Party (PAN), for example, were involved.

The move alone (maneuvers against Golkar) will not reduce Golkar's potential votes either. If it is Golkar's volatile voters that they targeted, this is not effective either because the next election will only be held in another three years.

The move, too, won't give PKB more votes.

The main goal for both PKB and PRD (in trying to lower Golkar's legitimacy) is to gain more popularity. It is just part of political rhetorics that will last only a couple of weeks.

Gus Dur's supporters need to do so to escape from a cornered and difficult situation (over the Bulog and Brunei financial scandals faced by the President). They need a scapegoat to express their disappointment over the case ...

Golkar contributed the most votes for Gus Dur. Attacking Golkar, however, will only lessen Gus Dur's support. Your comment?

Let me put it this way. Gus Dur knows well that many of Golkar's elite are facing cases of corruption, collusion and nepotism including the bank liquidity cases and the alleged involvement of Golkar's Chairman Akbar Tandjung in another financial scam, Tapperum.

So if cornered they (the Golkar elite) will just act defensive.

What could Golkar could do to cleanse itself from its past mistakes?

Their mistake is too big ... But Golkar was under TNI's control. It served only as a tool of Soeharto's regime. And unless we have a President who wins majority votes in the presidential election, cleansing TNI's sin will be a very difficult task to do. (Sri Wahyuni)