Kendari – A National Mandate Party (PAN) politician broke his leg and chairs were thrown to the air during the chaotic party congress on Tuesday that ended with chairman Zulkifli Hasan retaining his post.
Zulkifli, 57, won 331 votes for his reelection, well above his strongest rival Mulfachri Harahap, who got 225 votes. Drajad Wibowo, who is also known as an economist, only collected six votes from the total 565 voters comprising representatives from regional chapters. Three votes were deemed invalid.
In the heat of rivalry between Zulkifli and Mulfachri, supporters from both camps threw chairs inside Claro Hotel's convention room in the Southeast Sulawesi capital of Kendari, where the congress took place.
It remains unclear what has triggered the chaos in the closed-door congress, but amateur videos in social media showed chairs flying and supporters from both camps shouted the name of their respective candidate.
Saleh Laela, PAN's deputy secretary-general, broke his leg after being hit by a chair and had to be escorted to the hospital.
Unverified reports said that Zulkifli was accused of deploying many thugs into the room, triggering protests from Mulfachri's supporters who started to throw chairs.
They pushed each other and Mulfachri led a group of supporters to approach the podium. The chaotic scene prompted a number of policemen to intervene.
"We have had our ups and downs together. Today is the start of our struggle and the victory belongs to you all," Zulkifli said in his victory speech, attempting to calm all participants.
The former People's Consultative Assembly speaker will lead the party until 2025.
He also tried to reunite party members shortly after the heated congress by praising his main rival.
"My friend Mulfachri Harahap is a stern person, but deep inside he's a very good man," Zulkifli said.
"I hope that we all reunite for a bigger and stronger PAN. Factional infighting must stop today," he said.
Both men have agreed to forget the rivalry when Mulfachri came to Zulkifli and hugged him during the counting of the votes that showed the latter in a comfort lead.
The party has endured a hard time after the 2019 election when it only got 44 House of Representatives seats, four shy of the result in previous election.