President Yudhoyono's ruling Democratic Party hit by graft scandals

The Democratic Party of President Yudhoyono is facing a difficult struggle to restore its reputation ahead of the country's 2014 elections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 5:08am


A flood of corruption scandals has seriously undermined the Indonesian ruling party's prospects in 2014 elections, analysts say, and left the outcome of the polls more uncertain than ever.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a second term in 2009 partly on a pledge to fight corruption in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, one of the most graft-ridden nations in the world.

But four years, on that promise seems hollow, with leading figures from his Democratic Party - from the chairman to the treasurer and sports minister - all becoming embroiled in corruption scandals.

In the latest case, party chairman Anas Urbaningrum was named last week by the country's anti-graft body as a suspect in a multi-million-dollar scandal over the construction of a sports stadium near the capital Jakarta.

Anas, who is accused of receiving "gifts or a promise of gifts" in the building of the Hambalang sports centre worth around 1.17 trillion rupiah (HK$935 million), quit his post on Saturday but maintained his innocence.

The same case forced the resignation in December of sports minister Andi Mallarangeng.

As the corruption cases have built up, the party's popularity has plummeted, dropping to just 8 per cent in polls in December, a far cry from when Yudhoyono was elected with 21 per cent of the vote in 2009.

He is constitutionally barred from running for a third term and no obvious candidate is yet to emerge from his party.

"In the past two years, the Democratic Party ... has often been labelled corrupt, now can Yudhoyono clean this up?" said Kuskridho Ambardi, executive director of private pollster Indonesian Survey Institute.

And it is not just the Democratic Party implicated. "It is a fact that all parties colluded ... no one is really clean," Syamsuddin Haris, a political analyst from Indonesia's Institute of Sciences, said.

Indonesia slipped to 118 out of 176 nations in Transparency International's corruption perception index last year. Some graft-weary Indonesians are now keen on politicians outside elite circles who are untainted.

One such figure is new Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, a man dubbed the "Indonesian Obama" who has become immensely popular with his down-to-earth style and common touch. In a recent poll by the Jakarta Survey Institute surveying the popularity of 12 leading politicians, he came out on top with 21.2 per cent. But he insists he will not run in the 2014 presidential election.

In the same Jakarta Survey Institute poll, Aburizal Bakrie, one of Indonesia's richest men and as yet the only declared candidate, scored just 8.7 per cent.

Aburizal has been tainted by the so-called "Sidoarjo mud", when hundreds of thousands were displaced by a mud volcano in Java. Many blame drilling by his energy firm as the cause of the disaster.

But the chairman of the Golkar Party, the party of Indonesia's late strongman Suharto, hopes that a victory last week over British financier Nathaniel Rothschild to control London-listed miner Bumi will help Aburizal.

He should now be able to take back control of thermal coal producer Bumi Resources, seen by many as a vital source of funding for his presidential campaign.