Heru Andriyanto, Robertus Wardi, Jakarta – Golkar Party Chairman Airlangga Hartarto said on Sunday that during nearly two years of his leadership he had brought the party to a commanding position at the national legislatures with the second-highest number of seats in the House of Representatives.
He also claimed to have reunited the party's members after a series of political rifts that had caused multiple leadership changes in recent years.
"The last legislative election put Golkar as the second biggest party at the House of Representatives with 85 seats. We've also taken hold of the People's Consultative Assembly [MPR] chairman post and the House deputy speaker post," Airlangga told BeritaSatu at his residence in South Jakarta.
"We now also lead [the House's] Commission I [defense and foreign affairs], Commission II [home affairs] and Commission XI [finance and banking]," he said.
Airlangga, who is also the coordinating minister for the economy, said he had reunited the party's members to end internal rivalries that during their worst had forced Golkar to hold an extraordinary congress in 2016 to end a short-lived dual leadership.
"In one and a half years of my leadership, I have successfully consolidated a party that was previously in a very challenging position," Airlangga, who has been leading Golkar since December 2017, said.
Airlangga's comments came two days after BeritaSatu TV aired a special interview with fellow Golkar executive and main rival Bambang Soesatyo, who had criticized Airlangga for his "undemocratic" leadership that has caused bitter divisions within the party.
Both men look set to face off against each other in the Golkar chairmanship election during the party's national congress early next month.
Bambang, the speaker of the MPR, the country's highest law-making body, said Airlangga had blundered by appointing inexperienced House debutants in crucial positions in its commissions.
"Many senior members who are very capable have been sidelined because they are supporting me," Bambang said. He also accused the Airlangga camp of attempting to win reelection without counting votes in the upcoming congress.
"Regional chapters have heard attempts to elect [the chairman] by acclamation during the upcoming congress. This is far from democratic, and Golkar is a democratic party," he said.
When asked by BeritaSatu TV host Claudius Boekan if he really wanted to challenge Airlangga for the Golkar's top post, Bambang replied: "I have never dropped my candidacy."On Thursday, Bambang's supporters called on Airlangga to give up his leadership since his busy ministerial job would leave him with no time to manage the party.
"The Golkar Party thanks the president for entrusting a Golkar executive with the coordinating minister for the economy position. Since the country is facing serious economic problems, [Airlangga] must focus full-time on his job," Ahmadi Noor Supit said.
But Airlangga dismissed the idea, saying that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo himself had no problem with his dual roles.
"Looking back to my previous experience, the president is of the opinion that with proper management of my roles and my time under his result-oriented approach, I should be able to handle both assignments," Airlangga said.
Airlangga served as the industry minister while also leading Golkar during Jokowi's first term as president.