December 3, 2014 / 12:22 PM / 3 years ago

Indonesia tycoon remains opposition party chief, compromise hope fades

Aburizal Bakrie (2nd R), the head of Golkar Party, shakes hands with Akbar Tandjung, advisory council head of the Golkar party, after being re-elected as the head of the party in Nusa Dua, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in this December 3, 2014 photo taken by Antara Foto.Nyoman Budhiana/Antara Foto

NUSA DUA/JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's second biggest party on Wednesday re-elected tycoon Aburizal Bakrie as its chief for the next five years, dimming hopes that the opposition party would join President Joko Widodo's minority coalition.

Widodo won a presidential election in July and took over in October, raising hope for reform and cleaner government but there is growing concern that deadlock in parliament could threaten his reform program.

Since parliament's inauguration in October, members of Widodo's ruling minority coalition have refused to cooperate with the majority opposition alliance after opposition members snapped up house leadership posts.

Bakrie's Golkar party, which came second in parliamentary polls in April, has remained a member of an opposition coalition led by failed presidential contender Prabowo Subianto despite speculation the former ruling party might cooperate with Widodo.

Bakrie is the patriarch of the sprawling family-owned Bakrie Group conglomerate and a staunch supporter of Prabowo. His re-election as Golkar leader at a party congress on the island of Bali would appear to rule out compromise for now.

"While a president with a minority coalition is not new in a democracy, this is a blow to (Widodo's) coalition and points to continued troubles in parliament," said Tobias Basuki, an analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Some senior Golkar members seen as being more supportive of working with Widodo withdrew from the campaign to become Golkar leader leaving Bakrie the sole candidate.

Senior Golkar official Nurdin Halid denied there was a rift in the party.

"The vote was based on the party's constitution," Halid said on the sidelines of the party's four-day national congress held every five years.

Golkar was for decades the political vehicle of long-ruling authoritarian leader Suharto. Bakrie became its leader in 2009.

He has faced criticism from some members of the party over its failure to win more parliamentary seats and leading it into opposition for the first time in its history.

Several senior party members opposed to Bakrie's candidacy boycotted the congress and questioned the legitimacy of the process.

"The internal conflict in Golkar has become a proxy battle between the two main coalitions," Basuki said.

The Bakrie Group has interests in energy, plantations, property and various other businesses.

Bankers and analysts say the group has often benefited from its political ties. Bakrie executives deny that saying the group does not mix business with politics.

Editing by Robert Birsel

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