The ailing Democratic Party is looking for a few good presidential candidates.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyno’s graft-striken party will open its ranks to qualified non-party members as possible candidates for the 2014 presidential election. The move, similar to a plan embraced by the Golkar Party in the early days of the Reform Era, has been widely seen as a way to boost the party’s popularity with an infusion of new members.
The decision will be overseen by a convention committee comprised of both members of the ruling party and independents. A preliminary decision is expected by April of next year, with a public debate among the finalists to follow.
“It will involve the public in determining the winner,” Yudhoyono said in a press statement announcing the plan. “The winner will not be based on a survey or by the Democratic Party cadres, but by the public, who will be fully involved in determining the winner.”
The president promised a “transparent” primary free of corruption-back campaigning, backroom deals or paid nominations.
“The funds will be borne by the committee and the funds will be from a legal and halal source,” Yudhoyono said. “I also require funds outside the convention to come from legitimate sources.”
The committee will announce its selection by May of next year, two months before the presidential election.
Indonesia’s 2014 legislative election will be held on April 9, 2014, according to the General Election Commission (KPU). The presidential vote is scheduled for July 9, 2014. Political parties need to hold at least 3.5 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives following the legislative election to field a candidate.
The Democratic Party swept the 2009 legislative elections, but has seen its popularity decline in recent years as ranking members, including disgraced party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, found themselves embroiled in several high-profile corruption cases.
Yudhoyono has also become a target of public scorn. Activists routinely accuse the president of being weak on corruption, human rights and environmental issues while Yudhoyono’s inaction on several key issues has left some Indonesians pining for the days of strongman leaders like General Suharto.
Support for the party recently polled at 8.3 percent, down from the 20.8 it earned one year ago.
The party will likely target popular, but unaffiliated public figures like central bank governor Gita Wirjawan and Regional Representatives Council Chairman Irman Gusman. House Speaker Marzuki Alie and former Army Chief Pramono Edhie Wibowo have also expressed interest from within the party’s ranks.
“This is a semi-open convention,” said acting party chairman Syarifuddin Hasan. “Everyone can enlist, but the committee will decide whether they follow the requirements or not. We prefer a public figure, someone that already exists in the public’s eye.”
The 2014 presidential race already features a crowded ticket, despite rules against blatantly campaigning before election season. Billionaire tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, of the Golkar Party, former Kopassus special forces leader Prabowo Subianto, of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) party, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa, of the National Mandate Party (PAN), former Indonesian Military (TNI) general Wiranto and Rhoma “the King of Dangdut” Irama, of the United Development Party (PPP), have all officially expressed interest in the race.