Bakrie: The Most Powerful Non-Elected Politician in Republic of Indonesia

By N Mark Castro


In one of the most lopsided, barbecued, and anticipated party elections in the world’s history, Aburizal Bakrie retained the chairmanship of the largest and oldest political party in the Republic of Indonesia.

Earlier reports stated that the political maneuvering of Bakrie’s group spelled the winning factor that allowed Bakrie to be voted by acclamation and not by direct election.

In an earlier development, it was reported that “Bakrie loyalists engineered a purge of the party’s reformers — including some its most-senior politicians — at the party’s congress at Nusa Dua, Bali. Seven members from the rebel group, the “Presidium of Golkar Party Saviors,” were all summarily dismissed for opposing the tycoon’s bid to hold on to the chairmanship.

The seven were Agung Laksono, Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa, Laurens Siburian, Leo Nababan, Priyo Budi Santoso, Yorrys Raweyai, and Zainuddin Amali. Three of these men are elected representatives, as is Nusron Wahid, who was also booted out for failing to toe the line set out by Bakrie.”

Airlangga Hartanto was the last holdout among the initial contenders but eventually dropped out, accusing Bakrie that the elections was already set up to re-elect him.


Party stalwarts that remained loyal to Bakrie were rewarded with juicy posts, as expected, with Akbar Tandjung holding on as the chairman of the party’s advisory board.

What was so hilarious, however, was Bakrie stating that: “I am already old,” Bakrie said following the decision, adding that he and Akbar would seek to preside over a transition period before the party selected a new presidential candidate prior to the 2019 presidential election.

But the fact remains that, under Bakrie’s leadership and for the first time in its history, Golkar Party has lost its government position under President Joko Widodo’s administration. Inasmuch as the party struggles to find its relevance among the younger electorate, Golkar Party still has the numbers and won’t go away soon.

What’s curious to note is that when this writer arrived 12 years ago in the country, Aburizal Bakrie was not just in debt or had zero assets. He actually was in the negative. Yet, in a short span of time that he entered the Cabinet of SBY under his partnership with then (and incumbent) Vice President Jusuf Kalla, he eventually emerged at one point as the richest man in the entire country.

Indeed, his properties and assets have been linked in various controversies over the years, including his victorious corporate battle against Nathaniel Rotschild, Lapindo mudflow, and debt restructuring, but Bakrie has emerged the winner.

And now he controls yet again the largest and definitely the oldest political party in the entire 17,000 islands of the Republic of Indonesia, aligned with the seemingly combative Koalisi Merah Putih (KMP), making him the most powerful politician in the nation without having won direct and national elections.

If at all, Aburizal Bakrie’s political and business history should be studied both in political science and business subjects.

Like him or not, Aburizal Bakrie has left Indonesia with a wealth of history as to how its democracy and politics have been shaped. It’s up to the future generations to decide what happens next, where it goes, and what to do with the exciting times ahead.




About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on December 3, 2014, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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Charlotte Setijadi

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