In what appears to be a plan to win back the support of voters, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the Democratic Party is expected to hold a presidential primary to select a candidate for the 2014 presidential election.
“Other parties already have their own presidential candidates, but not the Democratic Party. We will select candidates through a primary election or a party convention,” said Yudhoyono, as quoted by Antara news agency, during a meeting with the chief editors of prominent media outlets on Saturday night.
Primaries are used by political parties in the United States to select presidential candidates. The Golkar Party held a convention to select Gen. (ret.) Wiranto as a candidate in the 2004 presidential election.
“Golkar has Pak Ical, Gerindra Prabowo and PAN Hatta Rajasa. The National Awakening Party [PKB] and the United Development Party [PPP] seem to have no intention of seeking the presidency,” said Yudhoyono.
Unlike the convention initiated by Golkar in 2004, the Democratic Party primary will be “semi-open”.
“In the Golkar convention, the candidate was selected by only the party’s leaders at central and provincial levels. We will involve the people because candidates could come from within or outside the party,” explained Yudhoyono, adding the primary’s mechanism was still being discussed by the party executive board.
During the meeting, Yudho-yono also made a statement which could be seen as ruling out a possible coalition with chief patron of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto.
Yudhoyono said that he wanted an individual with no military background to be the country’s next president. “The era of a president or vice president with a military background is over,” said Yudhoyono, himself a retired general.
The meeting took place at the residence of Industry Minister MS Hidayat, who is also a Golkar Party politician. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister and Democratic Party patron Jero Wacik, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan were also present in the meeting.
Yudhoyono, who can not run again in 2014, was said to have started talks with Prabowo, considered the most electable presidential candidate for the 2014 presidential election.
Analysts said that his decision to approach Prabowo was aimed at seeking “political protection” for him and his family members after his term expires in 2014.
Yudhoyono was elected Democratic Party chairman earlier this month and has been vested with the authority to appoint a presidential candidate to represent the party.
Yudhoyono was endorsed as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the 2004 and 2009 elections without going through a preliminary.
Democratic Party executives had earlier said that the party would not hold such a convention. “I don’t think a convention is a good choice for us, considering that it would likely open the door to vote buying,” party executive Ikhsan Modjo said.
Yudhoyono’s preference for a convention also contradicted his statement that an open contest within the party would be prone to vote buying.
At the Saturday meeting, Yudho-yono revealed that one of the reasons his party did not use a voting mechanism for his own election was that it could lead to vote buying.
Andrinof Chaniago, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia, said that Yudhoyono’s decision to use a convention could be seen as a response to criticism that the party’s extraordinary congress in Bali had widely been seen as undemocratic.
“An open mechanism in the upcoming Democratic Party convention could be the answer to such criticism,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Hanta Yuda, political analyst from the Pol-Tracking Institute, applauded Yudhoyono for coming up with the primary election plan.
“Yudhoyono must stay true to his word, otherwise his statement could be seen as a ploy to mend the party’s tarnished image,” he said.