JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Indonesia’s second-largest political party Golkar on Monday picked tycoon and power-broker Aburizal Bakrie as its presidential candidate for elections in 2014, it said.
Bakrie and his entrepreneurial family are collectively worth billions and run businesses in Indonesia selling everything from telecommunications to coal to education. But the Bakries and their companies are mired in allegations of corruption and tax fraud.
A Bakrie family spokesman has denied any wrongdoing, saying such allegations are “baseless and untrue”. Bakrie is currently the chairman of Golkar and was chosen as its representative for the next polls at a party board meeting in Denpasar on the island of Bali, officials said.
“The entire board of Golkar agreed on one thing — that Bakrie would become our presidential candidate in 2014,” the state news agency Antara quoted Ketut Sudikerta, the chairman of Golkar’s Bali chapter, as saying. The decision will be formalised at a future meeting of national party leaders, he added.
Golkar — for decades the party of the dictator Suharto, ousted in 1998 — is part of Indonesia’s coalition government, but is often the fiercest critic and rival of the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. Yudhoyono came to power on anti-graft platform, pledging to tackle Indonesia’s endemic and rampant corruption, but critics say that he has done little to do so in his time in office.
Bakrie, one of Indonesia’s richest men, is himself often seen as a threat to reform. He pushed in 2009 for the ouster of one of Indonesia’s most progressive reformers, the then finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, after she was implicated in a controversial bank bailout.
She resigned last year. One of the biggest threats to Bakrie’s presidential aspirations is his family’s gas company, Lapindo Brantas, which is widely blamed for a toxic mud disaster in eastern Java.
When Bakrie was serving as Indonesia’s social welfare minister, a mud volcano erupted in 2006 near a company drilling site, burying 12 villages and displacing 40,000 people.
While the supreme court found the company was not at fault, many international scientists say otherwise. The company agreed to pay compensation to victims, but has struggled to pay the final instalment.