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Jakarta Post

Entrepreneurs in politics for '€˜personal reasons'€™

  • Khoirul Amin

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Wed, February 19, 2014   /  10:43 am

High-cost political campaigns and limited government funding have resulted in political parties turning to businesspeople from various sectors to help them finance their routine expenditure and election campaigns.

'€œIt is obvious that politically wired media owners smooth the way for their political parties to advertise on their media outlets. At the same time, there are also prominent businesspeople from other sectors who join political parties,'€ Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher Wawan Ichwanuddin said in a recent interview.

Lion Air CEO Rusdi Kirana is the latest tycoon to enter party politics. He, along with his brother, Kusnan Kirana, was listed as one of Forbes'€™ richest Indonesians in 2013, with a net worth of US$1 billion. He was recently appointed deputy chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB).

Aksa Mahmud, owner of Bosowa Corporation, defended his decision to enter the political arena, saying that he wanted to contribute his thoughts and ideas for the betterment of the country.

'€œI was an activist during my time at high school and university ['€¦] But I am not seeking political power; I want to get involved in drawing up laws and regulations,'€ Aksa, who is a member of both the Golkar Party and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), told The Jakarta Post.

'€œEvery law or regulation must be debated in a political institution prior to being enacted by the government. That'€™s the reason why I chose to come into politics,'€ he said.

Aksa, who is also brother-in-law to former vice president Jusuf Kalla, joined Golkar in 1965 while a student at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi. He established his first company, CV Moneter, in 1973. The company later grew into the Bosowa Corporation, which runs a cement business, a car dealership and taxi and air services, making him Forbes'€™ 39th-richest Indonesian in 2013 with a net worth of $780 million.

Bosowa also runs a television and radio station and the newspaper, Fajar, all of which are based in Makassar. Besides his local media outlets, he also holds stakes in national news portal tribunnews.com and national weekly magazine Tempo.

The relationship between business and politics '€” here and elsewhere '€” is a symbiosis.

'€œPolitical parties and businesspeople provide benefits for each other. The former provide access to power, while the latter provide funding,'€ said Ari Dwipayana, a political analyst at Gadjah Mada University (UGM).

He said that by joining a political party, a tycoon could protect their business interests and gain broader business connections through party contacts.

Wawan said that businesspeople entering politics was not a new phenomenon. '€œWhat is new, however, is that many of them obtain prominent positions in the political party they'€™re associated with,'€ he said.

'€œSince Soeharto'€™s New Order era, most businesspeople have donated money to political parties '€” particularly Golkar '€” without directly getting involved in politics. But now, many of them want to ensure that every penny they give to their parties will be personally beneficial,'€ Wawan added.

He cited the case of Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of the MNC Group, who was previously assumed to be a supporter of the Democratic Party because he was among those monitoring live updates of the quick-count results during the 2009 presidential election at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono'€™s private residence in Cikeas, West Java '€” together with the President himself.

'€œHowever, that public appearance did not materialize into his joining the Democratic Party later on,'€ he said.

Hary was summoned and questioned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in 2012 as a witness in a graft case after his company, PT Bhakti Investama through its tax consultant, James Gunarjo, bribed Tommy Hindratno, an official with the Taxation Directorate General. The corruption court found both James and Tommy guilty, and sentenced each of them to three-and-a-half years in prison.

Previously, Hary had joined the National Democrat (Nasdem) Party in October 2011 and was appointed to the party'€™s board of experts. He subsequently left Nasdem in January 2013 over differences of opinion as to the party'€™s organizational structure.

Hary then joined the People'€™s Conscience (Hanura) Party in February 2013, and was appointed the head of the party'€™s board of advisors. Later, he was declared the running mate to party chairman Gen. (ret) Wiranto for the July 9 presidential election.

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