Rise of Yudhoyono's son raises concerns of a political dynasty

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 June, 2010, 12:00am

The photo splashed across the media on Friday could have been mistaken for a snapshot from a college yearbook.

In it, a lanky youthful Indonesian man dressed in a blue jacket smiles shyly and waves to a crowd.

The young man in question is Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, the younger of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's two sons.

Overnight, Edhie became a face of the country's future leadership with his appointment as secretary general of his father's Democratic Party (PD).

At the age of 30, Edhie is one of the country's youngest politicians and, in addition to the cheers, his appointment drew criticism because some see the move as part of Yudhoyono's efforts to build a political dynasty, a charge his aides reject.

'It has never entered the president's mind to build a political dynasty,' Heru Lelono, a confidante and special staff to the president, said. 'Edhie accepted the appointment because he himself wanted to be involved in politics.'

Yudhoyono, known by his initials SBY, founded the Democratic Party in 2003 and denied he had a hand in his son's appointment.

He said it was not for him but the public to judge his son's capabilities.

'I will never and have never ever asked for anyone to be appointed.'

'Edhie Baskoro is the one who will show the Democratic Party, the public and everyone, what he can do ... we cannot judge a person before he carries out his duties.'

Edhie's political experience is minimal. Quiet, shy and well-mannered, he entered politics when he won a seat in parliament on PD's ticket last year and sits on parliament's Commission I which oversees security and foreign affairs.

He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, before furthering his studies in Singapore and graduating with a masters' in international political economy from the Nanyang Technological University.

Edhie rarely speaks to the press and keeps a low profile, but confidante Lelono insists the young man is a fast leaner.

'From the views that he expresses to me on the issues he deals with in Parliament, he shows a lot of maturity,' he said.

Analysts see Edhie as the son in whom the president places his hope of carrying on the family's name in politics.

'SBY wants his son to carry on the ... family's existence in politics,' Muhammad Qodari, executive director of polling company Indo Barometer, said.

'The role of secretary general will help to make Ibas known to the public,' Qodari added, referring to an affectionate name for Edhie. Qodari also sees Edhie's appointment as a compromise by PD chairman Anas Urbaningrum to earn SBY's trust.

The 40-year-old Anas won PD's chairmanship in a closely contested party election last month, becoming the youngest leader ever of a political party in Indonesia.

He was elected as an MP at the same time as Ibas and is also considered inexperienced.

Nevertheless, senior politicians say it matters little who leads the party because the president, the organisation's icon and rallying figure, will continue to hold sway over PD after his final term in office ends in 2014.

'PD's role as a political vehicle is not dependent on who is the chairman and secretary general. It is SBY alone who decides about everything,' a senior politician close to the palace said.

The president reportedly knows his son is far too young and inexperienced to be considered as a presidential candidate in the next elections and will need some 10 years or more before he is ready for the big job.

But, the advantages of youth will not be wasted. The combination of a young party chairman and secretary general will increase the party's appeal in a country that is still very much a democracy in the making.

'The young leadership is very good for the party's image because it means there is regeneration and the media and the people will like that,' Qodari said.