The 2104 presidential election will likely see a duel between general-turned-businessman Prabowo Subianto and Golkar Party chairman and business tycoon Aburizal “Ical” Bakrie, according to political observers.
During its leadership meeting last week, Golkar, pegged to come out on top in the 2014 legislative elections, has nominated Aburizal as its presidential candidate for the upcoming election, while Prabowo has long since expressed his ambitions to join the race after failing in 2009.
A series of recent surveys and expert analyses have confirmed that without incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the race, the presidency would likely come down to Aburizal and Prabowo.
Under the Constitution, Yudho-yono can’t run for a third presidential term, while Megawati is facing mounting pressure within and outside her party to pick a younger candidate to represent the party in 2014.
Of three recent surveys about the presidential candidates by three different poll bodies, one put Aburizal in the strongest position, while two others placed Prabowo as the likely winner if both Yudhoyono and Megawati did not run.
A survey by the Reform Institute pegged Aburizal as the early favorite with 13.58 percent, followed by Prabowo Subianto with 8.46 percent, Jusuf Kalla with 7.06 percent, Hidayat Nurwahid with 5.17 percent and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono with 4.13 percent.
A poll by Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate said that without Yudhoyono and Megawati in the running, Prabowo would be the top vote-getter with 28 percent, followed by Mahfud M.D. with 10.6 percent, Sri Mulyani Indrawati with 7.4 percent and Aburizal Bakrie with 6.8 percent.
An Indonesian Voice Network (JSI) survey conducted from Oct. 10–15 included Megawati, who was most favored by 19.6 percent of respondents. She was followed by Prabowo with 10.8 percent, Aburizal with 8.9 percent and Wiranto with 7.3 percent.
However, experts have agreed that although Aburizal has the Golkar political machine and strong financial resources behind him, he faces a number of stumbling blocks.
A University of Indonesia political analyst said the three polls showed that voters still wanted a president from Java, while many still preferred soldiers over entrepreneurs.
“Aburizal needs to conduct a thorough analysis of whether the people will vote for the party or for him specifically, because in 2004, the Golkar Party won the legislative election but lost the presidential election,” he said.
Political observer Andrinof Chaniago said Aburizal had a small chance at winning, saying the more likely candidates to watch were familiar faces such as Megawati, Prabowo and Wiranto.
“People need to believe that the candidate can deliver their hopes. After that, there are other factors such as [ethnic background] and religious background,” he said.
Andrinof added that even if the Golkar Party teamed up with the Democratic Party for support, Aburizal would still face difficulties breaking into the top five, because the candidate’s character would still play important role in the election.
Some have speculated that the President may order his Democratic Party to team up with Golkar, allowing First Lady Ani to be Aburizal’s vice president.
Another political analyst, Yunarto Wijaya, said Aburizal had his flaws to address, including the Lapindo mud case and tax mafia allegations.
“People already know Prabowo from the 2009 election, and his party has a pro-poor policy similar to the PDI-P. If Mega does not join the election, the votes for her might go to Prabowo. Even if Mega’s daughter, Puan Maharani, runs, she has yet to attract voters like her mother,” he said.