Monday, May 10, 2010

Former spokesman eyes 2014 presidential race in Indonesia

In Indonesia, as in every good democracy, the positioning for the next election starts shortly after the last set of polls has closed.

With President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono obliged to step down in 2014 after two terms, Andi Mallarangeng, his former spokesman, has fired the starting gun in the race to replace him as the Democrat Party's presidential candidate.

Andi, who was promoted to Youth and Sports Minister by Yudhoyono after last year's election, is currently running for the chairmanship of the Democrat Party but has hinted that his ambitions go much higher. 

At a meeting of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents' Club on Wednesday, Andi was asked why, given that the Democrat chairman is elected by a small group of party cadres, he had been spending large amounts on posters and TV adverts. (Images that, incidentally, mimic the famous Barack Obama "Hope" poster created by US artist Shepard Fairey.)

His response was that of a pro. "I'm running for chairman of Partai Demokrat full stop." Only he didn't stop there, adding with a glint in his eye:

"In due time, Partai Demokrat will nominate a presidential candidate for 2014. Any cadres of Partai Demokrat will be eligible to be nominated and we will support them to win the election. It could be anyone within the party. It could be the chairman."

Andi also set out his stall as a centrist on political and economic issues, arguing that Indonesia faced an ongoing to struggle to keep extremists at bay and ensure the country remained a pluralistic society.

Although Andi is close to the president and has the backing of his son Edhie, he faces tough competition in the battle to secure the party chairmanship from House of Representatives speaker Marzuki Alie and Anas Urbaningrum, who heads the party faction in the House. The contest will be concluded at the party conference in Bandung later this month.

As for the presidential race, it is, of course, extremely early days. 

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