Indonesia’s Democrat Party, the largest in parliament and the reformist president’s main power base, elected a new chairman on Sunday, a position seen as a stepping stone to power in the 2014 elections.
Anas Urbaningrum, an advocate of civil service reform who wants to modernise the party, won a vote that puts him in pole position to run for president or vice president when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s second — and final — term ends.
Yudhoyono, a former general, was elected in 2004 and again last year on promises to tackle graft in a country that routinely ranks among the most corrupt in the world.
He also pledged to attract investment, spur economic growth, and create jobs.
While foreign investors rushed to buy Indonesian assets last year, Yudhoyono’s top reformers have met strong resistance from the political old guard and vested interests in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, giving rise to a power struggle between reformers and those opposed to change.
Urbaningrum, 41, faces the challenge of turning a party seen as a Yudhoyono fan club into a modern political organisation in a country where patronage-style, dynastic politics are the norm.
The quiet, bookish Urbaningrum beat his rivals — Sports and Youth Minister Andi Mallarangeng and Parliament speaker Marzuki Alie — at the party’s national congress in the West Java city of Bandung.
Yudhoyono at the congress opening on Friday urged members not to let internal rifts destroy the party, which holds more than a quarter of the seats in parliament and relies on the support of several coalition partners.
“However tough the competition, don’t overstep the boundaries of what is appropriate. Avoid (internal) politics, money politics, and unnecessary violence. Don’t start fights,” he said in a speech.
However, conference proceedings on Saturday were marred by interruptions and disorder, including at least one case of pushing and shoving between cadres dressed in the Democrat’s signature blue jackets.
(Editing by Sara Webb and Michael Roddy)