Indonesia’s Democratic Party survives another leadership challenge

The Supreme Court handed defeat to Moeldoko by rejecting a motion for a case review of the court’s previous decision that refused to acknowledge his claim for the Democrats’ top post.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (center) speaks during a press briefing at the party headquarters in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Aug. 11, 2023. PHOTO: ANTARA/ THE JAKARTA POST

August 14, 2023

JAKARTA – The leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, has survived another legal challenge against his leadership after the Supreme Court rejected Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko’s latest legal bid to seek recognition of his claim to the party’s top post.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed yet another defeat to Moeldoko by rejecting a motion for a case review of the court’s previous decision that refused to acknowledge his claim for the Democrats’ top post. The court maintained that the dispute for the top post was “an internal party matter”.

The decision ends the two-year saga of Moeldoko’s attempt to take over the party leadership.

Speaking at the party’s headquarters in Jakarta on Friday, Agus, who celebrated his 45th birthday on the day the Supreme Court issued the ruling, hailed the court’s decision as a victory, not only for the Democratic Party, which has been under threat of hostile takeover for more than two years, but also for “truth and justice.”

“There have been concerns over whether justice still exists, whether the rule of law will still be upheld in our country,” Agus said. “All party members have been worried that the party they had help build all those years would be taken away by a raider.”

“Today those doubts are gone,” he added.

Thursday’s ruling would give the party a new fresh start to head into the upcoming general elections without having its “hands and feet tied” by the legal threat over the party’s leadership, Agus said. However, the party would keep its guard up as potential threats to undermine the opposition party remained open.

Despite more than a dozen legal defeats, Moeldoko lodged in April a petition to overturn the Supreme Court’s previous ruling that rejected his earlier petition to annul the party’s current rules and bylaws, thus, making Agus’ leadership illegitimate.

Moeldoko also sought to appeal the Law and Human Right Ministry’s refusal to recognize him as party’s chairman. Indonesian political parties need formal recognition from and be registered with the ministry to officially participate in elections.

A retired general who has never been a member of the Democratic Party, Moeldoko was named as party chairman in an extraordinary congress held by a splinter faction of the party in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, in March 2021. Agus slammed the congress, calling it “illegal and invalid” due to the absence of a party central board member.

Moeldoko is an active member of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s cabinet, prompting Agus to allege that certain people both in and out of the current government had been orchestrating a coup. These people, he alleged, tried to replace the party’s leadership and later use the party as a political vehicle for a presidential bid in the 2024 election.

Former president and Democrats founder Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known as SBY, previously made allegations about an ongoing plot to keep his political party from nominating a certain presidential candidate, which later party members referred to as former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan.

The Democrats have joined forces with the NasDem Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in an electoral alliance dubbed the Coalition for Change and Unity (KPP) to pass the 20 percent legislative threshold. The alliance has endorsed Anies as its presumptive presidential candidate.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD dismissed allegations of government interference in the Democratic Party’s leadership conflict, asserting that the government had “absolutely no plans” to defeat the legitimate Democrats’ leadership in court.

Mahfud, who is a former Constitutional Court chief justice, stressed that the government had defended “the legal truth” through the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s acknowledgement of Agus as legitimate party leader.

Saiful Huda, a spokesperson for the Moeldoko-led faction, said on Thursday that the court’s decision was not surprising, citing irregularities it found in the legal proceeding against their petitions.

“Nevertheless, from the bottom of my heart, I must have the courage to thank the Supreme Court justices,” Saiful said, “which decided to proceed with our petition, even though our appeal was rejected.”

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