Daddy’s and mommy’s big name coupled with inherited wealth and traces of attractiveness are probably the best assets for children of the political elites in vying for the country’s future leadership in the next five or 10 years. The Jakarta Post’s Hasyim Widhiarto explores how children of political powerhouses gear up to take the stage. Here are the stories:
Do as your mother tells you: Legislator Puan Maharani (left) accompanies her mother, former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, also Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman (right), while legislator Tjahjo Kumolo looks on during the opening ceremony of an event in Jakarta in this file photo taken in February 2010. While India has the Ghandis and the US the Kennedys and Bushes families, Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, may also have an emergence of numerous political dynasties. JP
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s eldest son Capt. Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 32, recently finished a course at the prestigious Fort Benning Infantry School, the US, and graduated with flying colors.
Also recently, the eldest son of powerful Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, Anindya Bakrie, 36, leveraged his father’s clout at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), a powerful business lobby propelled primarily by Golkar supporters and the Bakries. Golkar is the second largest party after Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party.
Anindya recently chaired Kadin’s steering committee for the group’s national meeting, besides spearheading the family’s expansion in telecommunication and mass media businesses.
The eldest daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, Puan Maharani, 37, is also increasingly playing a more influential role in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) — a party known to hoist the symbols and teachings of Puan’s grandfather, former first president Sukarno.
Puan, who leads the party’s faction at the House of Representatives, was recently granted by her father and mother a greater say in the decision on a proposal from Yudhoyono’s camp to include PDI-P, the country’s third largest party, in the ruling coalition. She eventually rejected the proposal.
While India has the Ghandis and the United States the Kennedys and the Bushes, Indonesia as the world’s third biggest democracy, also sees the possibility of an emergence of numerous political dynasties.
While these children of the political elites are unlikely to play major roles in the upcoming 2014 elections, analysts predict that they may dominate the political sphere in the next five to 10 years.
For now, their parents are well engaged in grooming their crown princes and princesses.
Agus Yudhoyono, for example, has enjoyed many privileges in the military even without having had any major combat experience.
Unlike most officers of his age and rank who have to bear the hardship of tours of duty in remote and conflict-prone areas across the archipelago, Agus has spent most of his military career at school.
In less than six years, Agus has already secured two master’s degrees: one from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the other from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
A month after graduating from Harvard, Agus flew back to the US with his family in August to enroll in the seven-month military course at Fort Benning, and graduated in early March. Agus is now stationed not far from his folks’ place as an officer with the Defense Ministry’s directorate general of defense strategies.
Although Agus’ little brother Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro is the Democratic Party’s secretary-general and a legislator, analysts have voiced doubt that he will become the family’s future flag bearer due to his unconvincing appearance and capabilities. Despite his strategic position in the party, Ibas, however, has rarely attended House hearings, or party meetings.
Unlike Yudhoyono who seems to put up no barriers when it comes to privileges for his children, Aburizal has granted Anindya great responsibility in steering the course of the family’s business but with some challenges.
Referred to as the Bakrie’s future chief patron, Anindya is currently betting his credentials on pursuing the protracted merger of Bakrie Telecom (BTEL) with a unit of state-run telecommunication company PT Telkom. Although Telkom last year agreed to a certain degree to the merger of its Telkom Flexi with BTEL, no progress has been seen on the deal.
Anindya has also increasingly appeared at numerous public events, with the latest one being a speech he made before Yudhoyono, ministers and noted business leaders during Kadin’s national meeting in early April.
He has also appeared as a guest lecturer at several universities, talking about entrepreneurship, small businesses and telecommunication.
Aside from strengthening his presence at home, Anindya has also gone international by attending numerous high-profile summits, and furthering his Southeast Asian studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
“Anindya focuses more on growing the family’s businesses. He has no interest thus far in politics as he is not canny enough,” said family spokesman Lalu Mara Satriawangsa late last year.
Another elite’s son clawing his way into becoming the family’s flag bearer is Aryo Djojohadikusumo, 27, the eldest son of Hashim Djojohadikusumo, one of the country’s richest tycoons and key financier for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) since its founding in 2008.
Aryo’s uncle is Maj. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, the party’s patron chief, who is expected to run in the 2014 presidential election.
Aryo, chairman of Gerindra’s youth wing Tunas Indonesia Raya (Tidar), said his encounter with politics was rather “accidental”.
“When my father and my uncle set up the party, they had problems in recruiting people. That’s why they ended up asking family members to fill some of the party’s positions,” he said.
In August 2008, after spending 12 years studying in the United Kingdom, Aryo returned to Indonesia and was assigned to lead Tidar — Gerindra’s youth wing.
Many consider Aryo the future flag bearer of the Djojohadikusumo family both in business and politics as Prabowo’s only child, Didit Hediprasetyo, has decided to pursue a career in fashion design.
“My grandfather [legendary economics minister Soemitro Djojohadikusumo] was once a politician, as is my uncle now. I think it’s normal to see other family members taking a similar path,” Aryo said.
Other children of influential political leaders jumping into politics include National Mandate Party (PAN) legislator Ahmad Mumtaz Rais, 27, who is the son of the 1998 Reform Movement icon and PAN chief patron Amien Rais; and chairwoman of the splinter group of the National Awakening Party (PKB) Yenny Wahid, the daughter of the late former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid. Dave Akbarsyah Laksono, the son of Golkar deputy chairman and Coordinating Public Welfare Minister Agung Laksono, is trying his luck in politics as chairman of the Golkar Party’s youth wing — the Indonesian Youth Reform Force.
National University political observer Alfan Alfian believes there is nothing wrong with the children of the senior politicians pursuing careers in politics, but strongly urges them to be “outspoken” and critical politicians who do not only stand behind their parent’s “big name”.
“The essence of becoming a politician is to speak out for public aspirations. These children could secure their legislative seats easily during elections, but could they contribute anything significant?”
University of Indonesia political communication expert Bachtiar Aly echoed Alfan’s view, saying these future leaders would someday face the inevitable “natural selection” mechanism despite their families’ big names.
“A party must ensure that their young leaders are mature and capable enough before giving them certain strategic posts,” he said.
“It is true that their family name could become an everlasting benefit for these young politicians. But in the end, people will consider their leadership track record before voting for them.”