The National Awakening Party (PKB) made a surprise move on Sunday by announcing that Rusdi Kirana, co-founder and chief executive of the nation's largest commercial airline Lion Air, had joined the party as its deputy chairman.
PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar announced the decision on Sunday in a press conference at the party's headquarters in Central Jakarta.
'As deputy chairman, Rusdi will improve the party's strength and greatness in the 2014 election,' Muhaimin said.
He added that the decision to appoint Rusdi deputy chairman had won approval from the party's elders as well as senior clerics of the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
Rusdi, who is of Chinese descent, said that his move to join the PKB was to set the example that it was not taboo for businesspeople to join politics.
'I call on fellow businessmen to enter the political world. Let us build this nation together,' Rusdi said.
PKB executive Marwan Ja'far said that Rusdi was drawn to the party's pluralist platform.
'Pak Rusdi wants to join the PKB because this party is plural,' Marwan told.
The PKB was founded by the late NU chairman Abdurrahman 'Gus Dur' Wahid, who was known for his pluralist stance.
Many have expected that Rusdi's membership with the PKB could significantly help the party's financial performance.
According to a 2013 list of the richest Indonesians compiled by Forbes magazine, the brothers Kusnan and Rusdi Kirana stood at number 29 with about US$1 billion in net worth.
Last year, Rusdi rejected an offer by the ruling Democratic Party to participate in the party's ongoing presidential convention.
Also in 2013, Rusdi launched Harian Nasional (National Daily), a newspaper distributed freely on all Lion Air flights. It is believed the paper will become a campaign tool for the PKB.
In the 2009 legislative election, the PKB won 4.94 percent of the popular vote, which translated into 28 seats in the House of Representatives, making it the fourth largest Muslim-based political party.
Meanwhile, the presidential candidacy of the National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman, Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa, got a boost with the launch of Volunteers for Hatta Rajasa, a PAN-affiliated organization.
Hundreds of PAN members and supporters, as well as top party brass, including Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and Bogor Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto, attended the ceremony at a sports stadium in Central Jakarta.
'We make the declaration that we will work the hardest we can to make Hatta Rajasa the country's next president,' actress turned PAN legislative candidate Desi Ratnasari said.
Former youth and sports minister Adhyaksa Dault, coordinator of the organization, claimed that it had registered thousands of people as volunteers.
'In Jakarta alone, we have at least 10,000 people,' said Adhyaksa, who is a former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician. It is unknown exactly when he left PKS to join PAN.
Bima Arya, who also chairs Matahari Nusantara, PAN's youth wing organization, said that the party's youth nationwide would help mobilize support for Hatta.
In the 2009 legislative election, PAN only got 6 percent of votes nationwide, far below the required 20 percent threshold to make it eligible to nominate a presidential candidate. It then decided to ally with the Democratic Party (PD) and four other parties to support the presidential ticket of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Boediono.
According to a survey released by Kompas daily last week, PAN came in eighth position as the most electable party with only 3.2 percent respondents saying they would vote for the party. It was even lower than that of newcomer the NasDem Party, which got 6.9 percent.
Analysts believed that Hatta's early presidential nomination was part of a ploy to boost the credentials of Hatta as a vice presidential candidate.
'PAN is realistic in that it may not have enough electoral power to nominate its own presidential candidate. It is now focusing on approaching presidential candidates with a good chance of winning the 2014 race, like Jokowi,' Pol-Tracking Institute executive director Hanta Yuda said.
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