JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s Golkar Party plans to back President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in his second term, in a move that will give his government more support in parliament but could impede reforms of key areas such as the bureaucracy.
Controversial tycoon and welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie, as expected, won an overnight vote at a party meeting to head Golkar, for decades the dominant party of former autocratic president Suharto and now the third-biggest party in parliament.
Bakrie, whose family controls mines, property and toll roads, has previously been accused of pushing his business interests while in the cabinet, which the government denied.
He also drew fire when an oil drilling firm linked to his family was blamed by some for causing a mud volcano in East Java that left thousands homeless.
Bakrie, who said at the meeting he intended for Golkar to support the government although it reserved the right to criticise, has denied the firm was to blame.
Burhanuddin Muhtadi, an analyst at the Indonesian Survey Institute, said Yudhoyono’s ties with Golkar were complicated.
“The implication could be very serious. It is likely macro-economic policies could face obstacles from people surrounding SBY,” he said, referring to the president by his initials.
Golkar allied with Yudhoyono’s Democrat party in the president’s first term and secured several key posts, including chief economics minister and industry minister.
But Golkar, which typically won 70-80 percent of the vote during Suharto’s rule, only got about 14 percent of votes in the parliamentary elections in April and Yudhoyono ditched it as a coalition partner to contest the presidential election.
If Golkar does join Yudhoyono’s coalition again, even as a less important partner, some analysts say it could still hamper efforts to overhaul the civil service, judiciary and police, much as it did during his first term.
Some investors say bureaucracy, corruption, an unpredictable legal system and poor infrastructure deter them from putting money into Indonesia, despite its rich mineral and agricultural resources and large and relatively inexpensive labour force.
On the plus side for Yudhoyono, having Golkar onboard could expand his coalition to take in 70 percent of parliament’s members against 56 percent now.
“This ensures SBY now has the full set of political capital. He won a majority in the legislative elections, control of the MPR (parliament) and now Golkar has chosen Aburizal, who is confirmed on his side,” said Anies Baswedan, rector at Paramadina University and political analyst.
Baswedan said Yudhoyono, a reform-minded former general whose Democrat Party won the most seats in April elections, would now have more power to push through his policies.
“Of course, Aburizal (Bakrie) and those who support SBY will be reflected in the new cabinet but I don’t think it will change the balance between technocrats and politicians,” he added.
Yudhoyono’s current coalition includes a number of Islamic and Islamist parties and a new alliance with the secular and nationalist Golkar could mean a more pluralist government.
In his first term, Yudhoyono has at times been accused of pandering to a hardline Muslim agenda by backing a controversial anti-pornography bill and imposing restrictions on a Muslim sect.
Bakrie got 297 votes at the Golkar meeting in Pekanbaru, Riau province, beating nearest rival media magnate Surya Paloh who got 239. Tommy Suharto, the former president’s wealthy youngest son who served time in jail for murdering a judge, was also running.
Yudhoyono, who won a landslide reelection in July, is due to unveil his cabinet around the time he is sworn in for a second term on Oct. 20.
Additional reporting by Sunanda Creagh; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Jerry Norton