Indonesia’s embattled House speaker has made a last-ditch plea for his political life, in a case that is threatening President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s re-election hopes.
Amid speculation that Setya Novanto will be removed from his position both as Golkar Party chairman and House speaker, it was revealed that on Tuesday the graft suspect sent letters to his party and to the House pleading with lawmakers not to oust him.
“I hope all House leaders can give me an opportunity to prove that I am not involved [in the e-ID graft case],” he wrote.
Setya was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission last week for alleged graft in a national electronic identity card scheme that caused state losses of $225 million.
Setya’s Golkar party props up President Jokowi’s ruling coalition. Its support has also enabled Jokowi to tame his own Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), reducing his dependence on PDI-P’s backing to push through his policies.
Jokowi is a senior member of the PDI-P but the party is run by former prime minister Megawati Sukarnoputri.
“PDI-P is no longer as influential as it was over Jokowi since Golkar came in. Jokowi needs to see Golkar to continue to play such a role,” senior political observer Salahuddin Wahid told the Straits Times.
Jokowi is expected to strengthen the alliance by naming a Golkar lawmaker as his running mate in the 2019 re-election. But Setya’s ouster would weaken Golkar, leaving the way open for the PDI-P to force its candidate on Jokowi, analysts say.
Insiders told the Straits Times that the PDI-P is keen to field controversial national intelligence chief Budi Gunawan, 57, as Jokowi's running mate. Budi was formerly an adjutant to President Megawati and has maintained good relations with his former boss.
Yet past allegations of graft against Budi threaten to damage any presidential election campaign he joins. Jokowi may have no choice but to accept him, though, if he loses the support of a strong Golkar.
In doing so, the president would lose control over the choice of a successor to carry on his reform agenda.
All sides are now watching carefully to see how the corruption case centred on the detained Setya unfolds. The outcome could have deep and long-lasting ramifications for the political scene in Indonesia.