All in the family
Indonesian First Lady Ani Yudhoyono emerged this week as a potential candidate for the 2014 presidential election for the ruling Democratic Party. Her name has risen in prominence within the party even after repeated statements by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ruling out any member of his immediate family — meaning his wife and two grown ...
Indonesian First Lady Ani Yudhoyono emerged this week as a potential candidate for the 2014 presidential election for the ruling Democratic Party. Her name has risen in prominence within the party even after repeated statements by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ruling out any member of his immediate family -- meaning his wife and two grown sons -- from running for the nation's top job in 2014.
Indonesian First Lady Ani Yudhoyono emerged this week as a potential candidate for the 2014 presidential election for the ruling Democratic Party. Her name has risen in prominence within the party even after repeated statements by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ruling out any member of his immediate family — meaning his wife and two grown sons — from running for the nation’s top job in 2014.
Mrs. Yudhoyono, however, has not been as dismissive about the prospect when asked about her possible candidacy. Her response: "That question is simply inappropriate." (She’s shown in the photo above, at far right, as she and her husband welcomed the Portuguese president and his wife to Jakarta earlier this week.)
The president is understandably concerned about being accused of practicing nepotism if he lets his wife run. This isn’t the kind of legacy he wants to leave behind when he ends his service to the country two years from now.
The constitution was amended in 2002 to prevent any president from serving more than two consecutive terms. The change came after Indonesia’s bitter experience of authoritarianism from 1966 to 1998. According to the constitution then in effect, Suharto was elected six times, thus maintaining his hold on power for more than three decades.
One of the hallmarks of the Suharto regime was nepotism. In the wake of his departure 14 years ago, Indonesia embarked on massive political reforms, and one of the hallmarks of that transitional period was the popular acronym KKN, for Korupsi, Kolusi dan Nepotisme (corruption, collusion and nepotism), which stood for everything that was wrong with the old regime. Fighting against KKN quickly became the main battle cry of the reform movement.
More than a decade later, however, KKN has not only stopped being a political buzzword, but each of its three components is creeping back into the political culture. Today, corruption is as rampant as it was under Suharto; some even say it is more widespread, as evidenced by the scores of arrests and prosecutions of top politicians, bureaucrats, and police officers. And nepotism, in politics as in business, is also accepted as a fact of life.
In fairness to Mrs. Yudhoyono, she is not without political credentials. As the daughter of the late Gen. Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, who made his name in the 1960s by heading the military campaign to purge communists from the political scene, she comes from a well-known political family. She also helped found the party that became the political vehicle for her husband’s presidential bid in 2004 (and again in 2009). In this sense it comes as little surprise that her supporters are defying the president’s wishes and naming her as the most viable candidate to represent the Democrats in the 2014 race.
Those close to her also say that she was behind some of President Yudhoyono’s major political decisions, including his choice of economics professor Boediono as his running mate in 2009, as well as some of his cabinet appointments. Mrs. Yudhoyono is also highly visible, accompanying her husband on almost every domestic and foreign trip. Yet she has given few speeches, and has pursued little in the way of social activities that might have given the general public a chance to judge her character or opinions.
There is another good reason why the party wants to nominate Mrs. Yudhoyono: It doesn’t have anybody else it can sell to the voters. President Yudhoyono has been the main factor in the growth of his party, which became the country’s largest in 2009.
With the elections just two years away, there is no one within the party’s leadership who is even half as popular or eligible as he. Two younger figures mentioned as potential contenders, Party Chairman Anas Urbaningrum and Sports and Youth Minister Andi Mallarangeng, have been written off because they’ve been implicated in corruption scandals. Mr. Yudhoyono’s two sons, Army Captain Agus Harimurti and politician Edhie Baskoro, are considered too young to be strong candidates, at 32 and 30, respectively.
In the absence of any other more viable candidate from within, senior party members believe Mrs. Yudhoyono, who turns 60 this year, should run. They have two years to prep her and convince voters, who may still harbor suspicions of nepotistic practices.
If she does decide to run, helping her case is the fact that the three leading candidates for the race — Aburizal Bakrie, Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Prabowo Subianto — all have baggage of their own. Nepotism may be the least of worries for voters.
Bakrie, chairman of the Golkar party and head of the Bakrie business group, has had to deal with allegations of corruption as well as his links to a company implicated in a mudflow disaster in East Java that inundated an entire town and displaced tens of thousands of people in 2006. Megawati, head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), was president from 2001-2004, then lost the vote to Yudhoyono in 2004 and again in 2009. Gen. Prabowo, head of the Greater Indonesian Party (Gerindra), has not fully cleared his name of the atrocities committed by the Special Forces he commanded in the last years of Suharto’s rule.
The electoral environment is complicated by the emergence of new political dynasties that control the parties, and thus the political process. Money and family ties are the dominating factors in politics, including presidential nominations. KKN, the hallmark of the Suharto regime, is alive and thriving, only in a more democratic setting.
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