The Jakarta Post
It was not until 2001 that Hary Tanoesoedibjo made his debut on the national stage after his company unexpectedly took over Soeharto family's media flagship.
As Soeharto's children decided to go below the radar after the 1998 downfall of the dictator, suspicion was rife at the time that Hary was merely a frontman for the family. PT Bhakti Investama, in which Hary was then the president director, had close links to Soeharto's daughter, Siti 'Titiek' Hediati.
Bhakti eventually bought a majority shareholding in PT Bimantara Citra, now called PT Global Mediacom, which was then controlled by Titiek's older brother, Bambang Trihatmodjo.
To some extent, Hary tried to severe ties with the Soehartos after getting into a legal fight with Siti Hardiyanti 'Tutut' Rukmana.
Now, more than a decade later, Hary's 'frontman' image has faded following his success in turning Global into an influential and profitable media group. But the comfort and positive reputation that Hary has since earned have not deterred him from venturing into politics.
In a bold move that will further cement his political role, Hary declared on Tuesday his candidacy for vice president alongside presidential candidate Gen. (ret) Wiranto, who was the military commander when Soeharto decided to resign.
The People's Conscience Party (Hanura), which harbors many Soeharto loyalists and family members, will propose the pair should it succeed in passing the threshold for proposing presidential candidates; 25 percent of the popular vote in the upcoming 2014 legislative elections.
Wiranto is the party's patron while Hary is the chairman of the party's election division. 'We want to show the people that we represent all groups. We are a combination of majority and minority groups, I am a Javanese and Hary is of Chinese descent,' said Wiranto.
The declaration also marked the first time someone of Chinese descent has aspired for one of the country's two top jobs amid Javanese-majority governments.
Hary joined Hanura in February after leaving the National Democratic Party (NasDem) following rifts with NasDem patron Surya Paloh, whose television station Metro TV was once owned by Bimantara.
Political analyst Arman Salam of the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) said that Hary's nomination was aimed at increasing his leverage, and opened chances for other parties to turn to him for their vice-presidential candidate due to his control over influential media outlets.
'This is just a strategy by Hanura to gain popularity and also to provide chances for Hary to be picked up by other potential presidential candidates who are more popular than Wiranto,' said Arman.
Numerous surveys have shown Wiranto at the lowest level of popularity. He ran for president in 2004 and for vice-president in 2009.
A survey last week by the state-run Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) showed that Hanura garnered only 1.9 percent support.
'Any party or candidates teaming up with Hary will be assured of gaining massive campaign access through the mass media. This is something that Hanura could sell to other bigger or more popular parties and candidates,' said Arman.
Hary runs the country's biggest and most profitable group of media companies, including RCTI, MNC and Global television stations and Seputar Indonesia newspaper daily.
However, Hary is quick to deny that he would use his media outlets in the campaign, pledging that his media would remain independent. 'I have been in politics for the past two years and I have managed to keep my media independent, away from politics,' said Hary.
'Other parties can advertise their campaigns in my media as long as they comply with the Indonesian Broadcast Commission's (KPI) regulations,' he said.
While Hary's profile flourishes, he still needs to find ways to dodge several corruption allegations plaguing his family and business.
Hary was summoned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) last year as a witness after Bhakti Investama, through its tax consultant James Gunarjo, bribed tax official Tommy Hendratno.
The court found James and Tommy guilty, and sentenced them each to three-and-a-half years in prison.
A company controlled by Hary's brother, Bambang Rudhianto Tanoesoedibjo, has also been implicated in a health-equipment procurement graft case. The trial for that case is currently ongoing. (koi)