March 25, 2015 / 2:43 AM / in 3 years

Indonesian tycoon sues government to stop key opposition party defecting to president

Aburizal Bakrie (C), the head of Golkar Party, walks as he enters a plenary session at the Golkar Party National Conference in Nusa Dua, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali December 3, 2014 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Nyoman Budhiana/Antara Foto

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian tycoon Aburizal Bakrie is suing the government in a bid to keep control of the country’s biggest opposition party and prevent it defecting to President Joko Widodo’s minority coalition.

The opposition Golkar party controls 14 percent of parliamentary seats and would give Joko’s coalition control of over half the parliament, easing fears of political gridlock in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Bakrie, the patriarch of the sprawling family-owned Bakrie Group conglomerate, has filed a legal challenge against last week’s ministerial decree that gave the Golkar chairmanship to a rival faction sympathetic to the president.

“We have lodged a complaint against the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, whose decision in favor of the other faction is contrary to the principles of good governance,” Bakrie’s lawyer Yusril Mahendra told Reuters.

He added that Bakrie should remain the chairman of Golkar, which backed losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in last year’s election, until a verdict was announced.

A law ministry spokesman said the government, which intervened after being asked by Golkar to resolve months of political infighting, would see the legal process through.

He declined to say when the ministerial decree would come into effect.

Agung Laksono, who is set to replace Bakrie if he loses his lawsuit, told local media last week the party planned to join Widodo’s coalition without expecting cabinet seats in return.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla told Reuters last week the government was planning a cabinet reshuffle in the next month, but declined to comment on whether Golkar would be included in the new line-up.

Analysts say Widodo will face pressure to include Golkar, the political vehicle of former authoritarian ruler Suharto, in any new cabinet.

“Jokowi already has patrons to deal with in his coalition and the addition of Golkar would mean another patron and he has to balance power between them,” said political analyst Tobias Basuki, using the president’s nickname.

“It could potentially create new problems for (Widodo).”

Additional reporting by the Jakarta bureau; Editing by Randy Fabi and Michael Perry

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