Yudhoyono ‘Grooming His Sons’ for High Office

Captain Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono receives the Medallion of the Order of Saint Maurice from the National Infantry Association. (Photo courtesy of Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono)

Having watched the offspring of former presidents Sukarno and Suharto seek high office, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is trying to built a dynasty of his own, grooming his two sons to seek high office, political analysts say.

While Yudhoyono has said none of his direct relatives will stand for the presidency next year, plans by him to nominate a son in 2019 are likely to have an impact on the 2014 race, promoting an aging Jusuf Kalla to serve a single term rather than the younger rival Pramono Edhie Wibowo, according to one expert.

M. Qodari, the executive director of respected polling company Indobarometer, said Yudhoyono was keen for Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, aged 34, and Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, aged 32 and also known as Ibas, to seek high office.

‘‘Ibas is involved in managing the Democratic Party, while Agus Harimurti is a military officer and we know the Indonesian Military plays a major role when it comes to producing a national leader,” Qodari said.

He added that the Sukarno offspring, including the founding president’s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and grand daughter, Puan Maharani, were influential in shaping the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) campaign. While the Suharto family was keen to continue President Suharto’s legacy, no members had so far reached the upper ranks of power.

Under a theory floated by political commentator Iberamsjah, President Yudhoyono was seeking to engineer Agus’s rise in 2019 by backing Kalla, aged 71, over Pramono, aged 58, for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2014 race because he would not seek a second term.

In Iberamsjah’s theory, Pramono, a former Army chief of staff, would at best obtain the vice presidential slot in 2014, serving under the former vice president Kalla.

“The Democratic Party has made plans to endorse Agus Harimurti as president [in 2019] instead of Pramono Edhie Wibowo,” Iberamsjah said.

In a speech that will likely only fuel speculation of his presidential ambitions, Agus told the Indonesia Youth Conference in Jakarta on Saturday that the country faces three major challenges: terrorism, natural disasters and the scarcity of natural resources, such as fossil oil.

“The terrorist incidents that occurred both overseas and at home have had negative impacts on Indonesia,” he said.

“In the long term, terrorism could hurt Indonesia’s reputation.”

On natural disasters and natural resources scarcity, Agus attributed the problems to the growing human population.

“We could have shortages [in 40 years] and this could trigger conflicts.”

To prevent conflict, the government must build cooperation with other countries and boost domestic economic growth, he said.

At the same time the government must issue pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and policies that sided with the poor, he said, echoing the sentiments of his father, adding the government must also prioritize using alternative energy resources to overcome natural resources shortages.

On the 2014 race, Iberamsjah said Kalla, notionally a member of the Golkar Party, would not be hindered by his party from seeking a nomination elsewhere.

“Especially now Aburizal Bakrie [Ical] is running Golkar in a monopolistic and authoritarian way. This will not get voters’ sympathy,” Iberamsjah said.

“There have been cases where Golkar members have fled Golkar. Ical has a lot of baggage with the Lapindo and tax cases,” he added, referring to Bakrie Group mining company Lapindo Brantas and its possible responsibility for a mudslide in Sidoarjo, East Java, in 2006. “He lacks status as a statesman.”

Kalla could be a strong candidate if paired with a Democratic Party cadre, he added. ‘‘He is one of the few national figures that can be accepted by the public, surpassing Ical and others.”

Previously, Democratic Party politician Ruhut Sitompul said there was a big chance Agus would become a presidential candidate in 2019. He said Agus, currently an Army major, could be Army chief of staff, improving his presidential prospects.

But Charta Politika analyst Yunarto Wijaya disagreed, saying “it was impossible for him to become chief of staff by then.”

Yunarto said Agus’s could not become a four-star general in time. “I think by that year he would only be a lieutenant general,” he said.

Yunarto said it was unlikely Indonesians would accept a lieutenant general as a presidential candidate and called on Agus to ignore suggestions he nominate as a presidential candidate in 2019. “My advise to Agus is to not be bothered or to force himself to run in 2019 because as a military officer, he’s quite outstanding compared to his fellow colleagues,” he said.

Political dynasties are nothing new in Southeast Asia. Megawati served as president from 2001 to 2004 while Thailand’s current prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is following in the footsteps of her brother Thaksin. Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest son of founding father Lee Kwan Yew and in Malaysia current prime minister Najib Razak, is the son of their second leader, Tun Abdul Razak. By Disna Harvens, Jakarta Globe