Indonesian media giant launches democratic movement | Connect Asia

Indonesian media giant launches democratic movement

Indonesian media giant launches democratic movement

Posted 3 February 2010, 13:11 AEDT

Thousands of people gathered in an indoor stadium in Jakarta on Tuesday, to witness the birth of a new movement.

Calling itself the National Democrat Organisation, it's been widely seen as a platform to launch the presidential aspirations of media tycoon Surya Paloh and as a base to continue his feud with rival businessman Aburizal Bakrie. Surya Paloh insists it's a movement and not a political party but observers in Jakarta think that's likely to change before the next Presidential elections in 2014.

Presenter: Bill Bainbridge

David Hill, professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Murdoch University; Wimar Witoelar, Indonesian political commentator

BAINBRIDGE: The ink is barely dry on the ballots from last year's presidential elections in Indonesia but already the jockeying for 2014 has begun. Fifty eight-year-old Surya Paloh was born of humble beginnings - the son of a local policemen on the Indonesian island of Aceh. But he grew to become one of of the country's most powerful media tycoons. Professor David Hill of Murdoch University in Western Australia is an expert on the Indonesian media. He says the young Surya Paloh befriended key figures in the Indonesian elite, including one of then-president Suharto's sons.

HILL: He's managed quite successfully to harness those early contacts that he had with the rich and powerful to build an even stronger business empire which he has done particularly successfully in the media. He owns both a major newspaper and television station, and uses both of those outlets to promote his political interests and political aspiration.

BAINBRIDGE: Despite his place in Indonesia's elite, Surya Paloh was prepared to take on the establishment when one of his newspapers was banned.

HILL: And so he won a lot of democrat support at that stage, for being prepared to challenge the 'new order' in that way but one would have to say that he's seen as an ambitious politician rather than a democrat figure.

BAINBRIDGE: Late last year that ambition saw him make a run for the presidency of Golkar. He lost to fierce rival and fellow media tycoon Aburizal Bakrie - a loss that exposed a deep rift in the party. The launch of Surya Paloh's new movement attracted a who's who of Indonesian politics - including former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, Hanura chairman Wiranto and Democratic Party deputy chairman Ahmad Mubarok - although that hasn't impressed everyone in Indonesia. Wimar Witoelar is a longtime Indonesian political commentator.

WIToeLAR: They gathered people from across party lines, mostly those who have been losers in one way or another. So they call this a 'club of losers", among those people who are not in it. But that is not to say they they will be forever losers; in tennis you can lose the first set but win the second set.

BAINBRIDGE: And while the organisation claims it's not a political party, Wimar Witoelar says if the momentum is there it will become a party some time in the future.

WIToeLAR: More specifically it's about securing a position in the political scene in anticipation maybe of the elections in 2014, still a long way off, but at this moment we have no credible candidates. President Yudhoyono is not eligible to run again and nobody is on the horizon, except pretty small fish. But Aburizal Bakrie has now become a realistic possibility. He has the money, he has the media, he has the network to be a candidate and Surya Palho sees himself has the only person to compete with him.

BAINBRIDGE: But that, he says, wouldn't worry President Yudhoyono.

WIToeLAR: If I were SBY I would be very happy. Because it splits the opposition and distracts them from their cabal against the economic ministers.

BAINBRIDGE: At the heart of Golkar's internal rift is the push by Aburizal Bakrie to oust the highly respected finance minister Sri Mulyani - who's been supporting an investigation into his tax affairs. Wimar Witoelar says Paloh is marshalling the sizeable number of Golkar members would prefer Sri Mulyani keep her job.

WIToeLAR: Surya Pahlo recognises that Sri Mulyani is too popular and too competent to be driven away from office, plus nobody in their right mind would really remove her since if she goes the whole banking system goes and, of course, even the opposition have bank accounts.

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