Party of the Functional Groups

Published 24th March, 2014

The Party of the Functional Groups or Golkar as it is better known was founded in 1964 as an amalgam of the so called Functional Groups to come out of President Sukarno’s so called ‘Guided Democracy’. It became the ruling party under President Suharto from 1966 until 1999 when democracy was restored. The party describes itself today as a Conservative Liberal (centre-right) Party. The party believes in Pancasila which has five key strands, belief in the divinity of God, a just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy and social justice. It also believes in Conservative liberalism, Liberal democracy, Democratic liberalism and Pro-Americanism.

In 1998 Golkar removed Suharto as its leader and apologised to the Indonesian nation for his wrongdoings. It then repositioned itself as a secular nationalist party and in the 1999 elections won 120 seats to become the second largest party in the 462 seat People’s Representative Council. This was a drop of 205 seats from its previous privileged position as the ruling party.

In October 1999 Golkar supported the election of Abdurrahman Wahid as the fourth President of Indonesia and was rewarded with ministerial positions in his Cabinet. After a poor couple of years Megawati Sukarnoputri became the new President on 23rd July 2001, but she too achieved little and the general disillusionment played into the hands of Golkar.

The 2004 general election was Golkar’s to win and they did, taking 128 seats to become the largest party. But in the presidential election the party found itself divided over whom to support, Megawati Sukarnoputri or Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (the eventual winner).

In 2009 Golkar held its own, taking 106 seats and coming in second place to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. But new rules required the party to win at least 112 seats to nominate a candidate in the presidential election. Failing to do this meant that they had to form a coalition which they did with the People’s Conscience Party and submitted Vice President Jusuf Kalla and retired General Wiranto as running mates. They lost to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party, the only single party to have crossed the threshold.

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