President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday finally signed a new agreement with members of his supporting coalition, one that now provided no room for differences on strategic issues.
“This morning, the coalition parties met with a single agenda — to sign an enhanced and renewed agreement,” Yudhoyono said prior to a cabinet meeting at the presidential office.
“Praise Allah, the rearrangement of the coalition has been done, including an agreement to improve it. I hope it can be more effective so the government’s work can be done better for the benefit of the people.”
All coalition parties had signed the deal earlier except for the often-wayward Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which was the last to get the document and the last to endorse it.
Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, however, did not attend the meeting. Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono signed on behalf of the party.
One change in the coalition structure is that Aburizal is no longer the formal managing chairman of the group, a position he assumed in 2010. Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said parties would instead take turns in the post of managing chairman.
Yudhoyono remains the overall head of the coalition.
“The main point is that there’s still room for democracy,” Agung said. “We agreed that strategic things should be done both by government and legislature, but only strategic things. However, for technical matters, such as ministerial policy, there’s room for discussion, so there’s still democracy.”
The new deal appears to be intended to calm the waters for a ruling coalition that looks dominant on paper, as it contains the top two parties, Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and Golkar, as well as PKS, the smaller National Mandate Party (PAN), United Development Party (PPP) and National Awakening Party (PKB).
Since the elections in late 2009, Golkar and PKS have frequently gone their own way on a number of issues, including the Bank Century bailout and a controversial move to call a special House investigation of the so-called tax mafia case. The rumor mill has been rife for months with speculation that PKS might leave the political compact.
With an election looming in 2014 and politicking already underway behind the scenes, analysts have aired doubts as to how long the coalition could hold together in the face of ambitions to succeed Yudhoyono, who is barred from standing for a third term.
“We agreed through a process of discussion about what should be done [by coalition members],” Agung said. “[Sanctions] might be brought against those who after some effort could not agree. That party could withdraw from the coalition.”
He said the new agreement did not imply that disagreements would necessarily result in a cabinet reshuffle.
But president’s spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha, said an overhaul was still possible.
Marwan Jafar, chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction in the House, told the Jakarta Globe that the new agreement was somewhat stronger than the previous one.
“For me the new agreement is an improvement, so that if there’s a naughty member, it could be dismissed from the coalition,” he said.
“But everything depends on the coalition chairman, including whether certain members will remain in the coalition or not.”
PKS deputy secretary general, Mahfudz Siddiq, said the spirit of the new agreement was a revitalization for more effective government administration.
He said he hoped that all coalition members could be firm and clear in supporting the government’s policies, as long as they were “in the nation’s interests.” *The Jakarta Globe