The arrival of former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati in Jakarta has triggered speculation over a possible bid for president in 2014, despite her refusal to comment on the issue.
On Tuesday, Sri Mulyani, in her capacity as a World Bank managing director, met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a closed-door meeting at the State Palace.
Topics discussed in the meeting included Yudhoyono’s recent attendance at the G-20 Summit in Cannes, France, and the upcoming 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Antara news agency reported.
“Welcome home,” said the President while shaking Sri Mulyani’s hand at the entrance of his office.
While leaving the meeting, the 49-year-old Sri Mulyani smiled as dozens of journalists asked her if she would run in the 2014 presidential election.
She flashed the same smile when asked the same questions before entering the Finance Ministry building, her old office, on Monday.
Sri Mulyani met with her successor Agus Martowardojo and other ministry officials in preparation for Tuesday’s ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Investor Seminar (AFMIS).
Many observers have touted Sri Mulyani, a reform icon who was famous for her tough policies, as one of the strongest potential candidates for the 2014 presidential election.
However, Sri Mulyani has yet to openly announce whether she would accept a nomination as a presidential candidate, leaving politicians and political observers speculating.
While major parties, except for the Golkar Party which has announced its chairman Aburizal Bakrie as its presidential candidate, have not decided on their presidential candidates, only the newly established Union of Independent People Party (SRI) has openly declared its support for Sri Mulyani as a candidate.
Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political observer from the Indonesian Survey Institute, said that a lack of support from the major parties was caused by the perception that Sri Mulyani was not very electable.
“If her electability were higher, bigger parties would approach her for sure,” he said.
Several recent surveys, however, have put Sri Mulyani among the top-10 most popular presidential candidates for 2014.
A study by the Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate last month placed Sri Mulyani third behind Great Indonesian Movement Party (Gerindra) chief patron Prabowo Subianto and Constitutional Court chairman Mahfud M.D.
Another survey by the Indonesian Votes Network (JSI) put Mulyani in 8th position, lower than Aburizal and Sultan Hamengkubuwono X.
Sri Mulyani herself has implicitly played down SRI Party’s proposal.
The party has not been seen to approach Mulyani while the latter has been in town. “We did not and will not meet Sri Mulyani. We respect her official tasks here,” SRI Party chairman Damianus Taufan said.
A few sources, meanwhile, said that Sri Mulyani had met with oil tycoon, Arifin Panigoro, hours after she landed in Jakarta on Saturday. Panigoro was believed to be attempting to offer Sri Mulyani political support from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to help her run for president in 2014.
Burhanuddin said that it would be highly unlikely that the PDI-P would support Sri Mulyani.