Smart positioning and capturing the hearts of the public would be key to securing firm support for a possible presidential bid of former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the presumed figurehead of the Union of Independent People (SRI) Party, political observers pointed out.
The party, which registered itself at the Law and Human Rights Ministry on Wednesday, has announced that it would support and nominate Mulyani, who currently serves the World Bank as a managing director, for president in the 2014 general elections.
Advisory council member Rocky Gerung said that the party had chosen Mulyani as their presidential hopeful because she was a “person of integrity”.
“Sri Mulyani is the most apt benchmark for Indonesia’s politics in the future,” he added.
Party chairman Damian Taufan further added that Sri Mulyani possessed high ethical and leadership standards, which the party hoped would become the standard for future leaders.
Mulyani herself has yet to make a public statement regarding her relations with the newly established party, nor commented on a potential presidential bid. In an email sent to kompas.com on Wednesday, Mulyani said: “Right now I am extremely busy with work that comes with the beginning of the fiscal year here. I am sorry I cannot give comments or answers just yet.”
Political analyst Siti Juhro said that Mulyani gave the impression of an “elitist”, which reduced her standing among the public.
“If she were serious about collecting votes, she should return to Indonesia as an independent figure,” she said, adding that the party would lose credibility without Sri Mulyani’s participation in its election preparations.
She added that political parties had a strong ideological base and did not just rely on one figure.
Siti also said that the party gave the “impression of lacking in preparation”, which put SRI at risk of merely making up the numbers at election time.
According to Damian, the party had formed local executive boards in all 33 provinces. However, he said, it still did not have offices at the district level. The party lacks operational funds, Damian noted before brushing aside accusations that the party received foreign funds.
Political communications expert Effendi Ghazali said Mulyani’s silence over the party’s drive to make her presidential candidate presented no impediments. “In the world of politics, not saying anything means yes,” he said.
He said Mulyani should present herself to the public and face her biggest political challenge ever: Clearing her name of the Bank Century scandal.
In March 2010, the House of Representatives declared that the decision to bail out Bank Century was flawed and that those who played a part in the decision, including Sri Mulyani, should be investigated.
Effendi said the party could turn the situation around by positioning Mulyani as a victim of the scandal.
“That’s the party’s initial homework,” he said, adding that the party should then show to the public that Sri Mulyani had received strong support, including from the country’s intellectuals.
The party supporters include lawyer and human rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, senior journalists Fikri Jufri and Gunawan Muhammad, as well as political scientist Arbi Sanit.
“The party can start with the elites, then the NGOs who have the power to rally the public,” he told the Post.
Effendi said the other challenge for the party was to explain the meaning behind the party’s logo — a hand clutching a broom — which party members said represented the party’s wish to cleanse Indonesia’s politics with the help of the people.