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Friday, 1 March 2013

Democrats in the gulf crisis

The chairman of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party resigned Saturday, one day after being named a suspect in a corruption case, dealing the beleaguered party another blow a year ahead of presidential elections in Southeast Asia's largest country.

Indonesia's antigraft body, the Corruption Eradication Commission, said Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum is a suspect in a case involving the construction of a multimillion-dollar sports complex in the city of Bogor, West Java. The move had been expected by local media and politicians for weeks, following leaks.

"My status as a suspect is more than due to non-legal factors," Mr. Urbaningrum told reporters at the party offices on Saturday. "I fully believe that I am not involved in the legal violations" concerning the sports complex.

"I hope that truth and justice can still be served," he added. "Because I believe our country is based on law and justice, not on the principle of power."

At the end of his statement, Mr. Urbaningrum removed his blue party jacket in a symbolic gesture.
Commission spokesman Johan Budi said in a televised news conference late Friday that the panel had uncovered evidence sufficient enough to make it believe that Mr. Urbaningrum took a bribe related to the award of contracts for the sports center. He declined to provide details, but the violation of the relevant article of the anticorruption law he cited carries a minimum prison sentence of four years.
The commission declined to take Mr. Urbaningrum into detention, but requested that immigration officials place him under a six-month travel ban.

Sutan Bhatoegana, a senior Democratic Party official, told reporters on Saturday that party leaders would meet Sunday to discuss a replacement chairman.

The antigraft commission is an independent body that was created by the government in 2003 to investigate suspected corruption. In the past, naming a person a suspect has always led to formal charges, generally months later. The body has a perfect conviction rate in all the cases it has prosecuted.

Mr. Urbaningrum was a lawmaker in the House of Representatives until 2010, when he resigned after being elected party chairman.

President Yudhoyono has guided Indonesia through a decade of stability that has led to substantial economic gains for the world's fourth most-populous country. But the president cannot seek a third term, and his power has waned as his second term draws to a close. He hasn't designated a favorite to succeed him.

Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent Jakarta-based lawyer and political commentator, said the Democratic Party increasingly faces an uphill battle ahead of elections in 2014, following a number of corruption cases against leading party members.

The party has "been weak, and they're getting weaker and weaker now," Mr. Lubis said "Anas had many followers and a great network across the country, and this will affect that. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity for the party to clean house. The problem is they're running out of time."

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