By: Margareth S. Aritonang
Efforts to oust Democratic Party chairman, Anas Urbaningrum, has once again failed as none of the local party leaders, who were summoned for a meeting at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s private residence, floated the proposal for the embattled party leader’s ouster.
Yudhoyono, the Democratic Party’s chief patron, hosted the meeting (without Anas present) with local party leaders in Cikeas, Bogor, West Java on Tuesday evening, to clean the party’s image, which has been tarnished by several graft allegations.
Sources from the meeting said that no local party leaders wanted action to be taken against Anas.
Later, in a meeting with the party’s founding members on Wednesday, Yudhoyono delivered a speech that was considered by many as a veiled attack against Anas.
“It’s better for all members who fail to practice clean, smart and decent politics to leave the Democratic Party immediately,” Yudhoyono said.
Anas has been implicated in the scandal surrounding the construction of the SEA Games’ athletes’ village in Palembang, South Sumatra, last year, as well as alleged corruption in the development of the Hambalang sports complex near Bogor, West Java.
Anas’ wife, Athiyyah Laila, has also been implicated in the Hambalang case.
Speculation is rife that Anas might have used money from the projects to finance his election as party chairman in 2010.
A number of senior Democratic Party politicians have called on Anas to step down as party chairman.
Party patron Hayono Isman said that Anas should step down voluntarily rather than wait for dismissal if he was named a suspect in the graft cases in which he was being investigated.
On Thursday, Hayono renewed his call by saying that although Yudhoyono did not specifically refer to Anas in his speech, party members should know that it was Anas who continued to defile the party’s image.
“Earlier, I said the Democratic Party should do something to save the party when its electability dropped to 10 percent. It’s high time to do something because its electability is now 10.7 percent, according to the latest survey,” Hayono said, referring to a recent survey released by the Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate (SSS) showing that the Democratic Party could only garner 10.7 percent of the votes if a general election was to take place today.
Separately, another senior Democratic Party politician, Marzuki Alie, said that in his speech, Yudhoyono could have been referring to lawmaker Angelina Sondakh, who is now being detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for her alleged role in the construction of the athletes’ village.
“It’s better for her to leave us,” he said.
When asked about why Anas did not put in an appearance during the two-day meeting, Marzuki said the party’s central board had sent him an invitation. “We sent the invitation but he didn’t turn up. We don’t know the reason,” Marzuki said.
Anas did not respond to a query sent by The Jakarta Post on Thursday evening.
Analysts have said that Anas’ close ties with party members at the grass roots has given him leverage in his fight against the party’s patrons.
Anas is also believed to possess crucial information on the role of Yudhoyono’s family in politics that would likely be damaging if it was disclosed to the public.
This is not the first time efforts have been made to challenge Anas’ leadership.
Earlier this year, Ismiyati Saidi, the chair of the Democratic Party’s Gorontalo branch, testified at the Jakarta Corruption Court that she and several other local party leaders had accepted Rp 15 million (US$1,635) in return for their voting in favor of Anas.
Notice: This opinion article was displayed in the online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday, 15 June 2012. It is also able to be reached at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 15 June 2012].
Margareth S. Aritonang is a journalist of The Jakarta Post in Jakarta, Indonesia.