The Jakarta Post
Of the 12 political parties to contest the general election, the Golkar Party was the first to name its presidential candidate. While most parties have opted to wait for the results of the legislative election before naming their candidates for the July 9 presidential race, Golkar has named its chairman, Aburizal
Bakrie, as its candidate. Aburizal talked with The Jakarta Post's Bagus BT Saragih and Imanuddin Razak about Golkar's election target and strategies.
Question: How are Golkar's and your preparations for the upcoming elections?
Answer: They are almost finalized. If it's like a 4x100 meter relay run, we are now in the last 100 meters.
What is Golkar's target for the legislative election?
One-hundred-and-seventy legislative seats, or more than 30 percent. We do not use percentages as a target because they could be misleading ' the number of votes required for a legislative seat varies from one region to another. A remote constituency may only require 40,000 votes for a seat, while in Java it could be up to 300,000.
It sounds very optimistic. Is that why Golkar named you early as presidential candidate?
We are optimistic we can exceed the minimum 20 percent of the popular vote [sic]. Many surveys showed Golkar could get 20 percent, meaning that we could get 26 or 27 percent of seats. If we can work harder and get 25 percent of the popular vote, 30 percent of House seats is feasible.
Tell us Golkar's strongholds across Indonesia.
Golkar is strong across Indonesia. We are the strongest in West Java, number two in Central Java and number three in East Java. When it comes to non-Java regions, I think Golkar is the strongest in most constituencies.
What makes Golkar so optimistic?
Golkar is the only party that has grassroots links to villages. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P] is close to [a similar situation]. People are generally concerned about the economy and think that conditions during Soeharto's era were much better. People's incomes today are twice as high, but living costs are five times as high as they were in the New Order era.
Are you saying that Golkar will benefit from people's longing for Soeharto and his New Order?
The longing for a New Order is the longing for Golkar. This will certainly benefit Golkar. The elite can say any type of negative things about the New Order, but [common] people wish to go back to that system. That's why T-shirts and stickers featuring Soeharto sell like hotcakes. People spontaneously have [this longing] themselves, not Golkar.
Has Golkar been managing this New Order issue as part of its campaign?
It has been there naturally. We believe this is about people's desire to see Golkar back in power just like when Soeharto was in power. Recognized or not, Golkar is the only party that has a track record in governing and developing Indonesia in the long term. The elite may not recognize it but the people do.
Today's Golkar also has a long-term vision called Indonesia 2045. The vision ' earnestly created over two years ' has been discussed with top academics from top universities, such as the University of Indonesia, North Sumatra University, Mulawarman University, Hasanuddin University and Brawijaya
The 1998 Reformasi [Reformation] was a result of people's distrust of the New Order. Why do you think this system is still good for Indonesia?
The New Order, excluding its autocracy and centralization, was good. People have never considered the New Order to be bad ' it is the elite who say that.
Surveys found that Golkar's electability was far higher than your electability as a presidential candidate. What is your comment about that?
I have no problem with that. For me, the real measurement of my chances is whether I could be in the top two or not, regardless of my electability. Some candidates have appeared with a high likelihood of being elected in surveys, but are they eligible to run? Those from small parties would hardly be able to reach the 20 percent threshold. So, I think there can be only two candidates in the presidential race. In this case, the winning candidate will only need 71 million votes, assuming that there will be 140 million eligible voters in July.
Are you sure you can get 71 million votes?
Well, it depends on who my competitors are. With today's calculations, I think I will win. At the moment, the scenario has only Golkar and the PDI-P with the potential electoral power to reach the threshold. Therefore, only Aburizal Bakrie and Megawati Soekarnoputri [PDI-P chairwoman] will be eligible to race.
Why did you mention Megawati as a potential competitor instead of Jokowi [Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo]?
Megawati is the party's chair ' the sole decision-maker [regarding the PDI-P's presidential candidate]. If she says she wants to run, then Jokowi cannot run.
What about Golkar members who still question your nomination?
Those who reject the decision are the media. Do not base your assessment of Golkar on media reports. If you remember our last national leadership meeting, there was not a single aspiration to reject my nomination. Even Akbar Tandjung [Golkar chief adviser and former chairman] said Golkar only had one candidate, Aburizal Bakrie. But the media plays around with the issue.
What is your comment about analysts saying that your candidacy would be hampered by the Sidoarjo mud disaster?
I have no problem with that, because we [Bakrie Group] are not the ones to blame. The Supreme Court ruled that we did not have to pay for the damage. But my mother said to me: 'God has given everything to you. I don't care whether you win or lose in court. Help them [the victims].' Then I paid them, but not as a compensation, because we are not guilty. We paid 20 times as high as the NJOP [the taxable value of property]. So people who used to live in makeshift homes now live in real estate-like houses. I have disbursed
Rp 9 trillion to settle the Sidoarjo mudflow ' from my own pocket. That is why I am no longer in the list of 40 Indonesia's richest people!
What do you say about the fuel subsidy, as it has always made headlines around election years?
The fuel subsidy must be gradually converted to direct subsidy, so we can save about Rp 250 trillion [US$21.22 billion]. It's a huge amount of money. To provide a free 12-year education [system], the state only needs Rp 24 trillion, or just 10 percent of the fuel subsidy. I think we can totally eliminate the fuel subsidy in five years.
How can we gradually stop ourselves from relying on imported fuel?
We must have more refineries. In 1992, Soeharto built the Balongan refinery. Since then, we have not built any new ones. We have to change this. If our private sector does not have resources to build refineries, the government must do it. Let us say it costs about $5 billion for a five-year construction time. That means we only need about $1 billion, or Rp 12 trillion, per year, as compared to our Rp 1,800 trillion annual state budget.
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