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Jakarta Post

Sandiaga Uno: Backbone of Prabowo’s presidential bid

  • Nurul Fitri Ramadhani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, March 17, 2019   /   09:41 am
Sandiaga Uno: Backbone of Prabowo’s presidential bid Vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno massages running mate Prabowo Subianto’s shoulders during the first candidate debate on Jan. 18. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

It has now become apparent that this year’s presidential campaign is more about Sandiaga Uno than Prabowo Subianto.

The Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team reported in January that the vice-presidential candidate had contributed Rp 39.6 billion (US$2.73 million), or about 73 percent of the total Rp 54 billion the pair had raised in campaign funds over the past three months.

“If we break down the report, of course Sandiaga has contributed the most, followed by Prabowo,” team treasurer Thomas Djiwandono told reporters after submitting an official report on campaign funds to the General Elections Commission (KPU).

Ever since he was announced as Prabowo’s running mate in August, the businessman-turned-politician has been the more popular half of the pair.

He made numerous visits to traditional markets across the country, approaching female voters, whom he called emak-emak (housewives), to listen to their complaints about the price of staple food.

It has long been suspected that the 49-year-old, a former venture capitalist who frequently makes it onto Forbes magazine’s Indonesia’s 50 richest list, would be the main patron for Prabowo’s presidential bid, which was previously marred by financial issues.

Sandiaga, who joined Prabowo on the only ticket that will challenge incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin, is the richest of the four with a net worth of Rp 5.1 trillion.

By no means, however, did Prabowo enter the fray with empty pockets.

The son-in-law of former president Soeharto, who also came from an affluent family, Prabowo is the second-biggest donor to the campaign, having contributed Rp 13 billion or 24.2 percent of the campaign fund.

Prabowo’s party, Gerindra, contributed around Rp 1.3 billion, or about 2.6 percent of the total amount. The rest of the funds came from groups and individuals.

The campaign fund report, however, mentions no details about contributions from other political parties in Prabowo’s coalition, namely the Democratic Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

PKS executive Mardani Ali Sera, a campaign team official, conceded that his party had yet to contribute to the fund but claimed that it had worked hard for the ticket in conducting campaign activities.

“We’ve been contributing a lot, except in the form of money. All parties in the coalition have contributed but not always in the form of campaign funds, because most of the [presidential campaign] activities are correlated with parties’ [legislative campaign] activities,” Mardani said.

Democratic Party deputy secretary-general Andi Arief said political parties in a coalition had no obligation to contribute.

“In many meetings [between parties in the camp], we never talked about any obligations for parties to contribute funds,” Andi said. “Nevertheless, Sandiaga has promised to help a lot regarding the funds. And we have no problem with his promise.”

While he compensates for Prabowo’s failure to charm young voters, political observers have criticized Sandiaga’s role in the campaign as it shows that Indonesian politics is still dominated by patron-client relations that allow businessmen to occupy major political posts in the country and assume control of the country’s resources.

Sandiaga amassed the funding for the ticket’s campaign by selling his shares in PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya (Saratoga), an investment firm that controls major publicly listed companies in mining -- coal miner PT Adaro Energy and gold and copper miner PT Merdeka Copper Gold, as well as a coal-fired power plant in Gorontalo, and the Awal Bros hospital chain.  

Since the announcement that he would be  Prabowo’s vice-presidential candidate in August last year, the former Jakarta deputy governor admitted he had to sell his shares in the company to finance the campaign, earning more than Rp 500 billion from the transaction.

He is still a major individual shareholder of Saratoga, controlling 22 percent of the company’s shares, only second to businessman Edwin Soeryadjaya who owns 31 percent.

Earlier in the presidential campaign, Andi of the Democratic Party, which had its cadre Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono rejected as Prabowo’s running mate, claimed that the PAN and PKS had allowed Sandiaga to run in the April presidential election because of his promise to pay them a “political dowry” of Rp 500 billion each.

The accusation prompted a probe by the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), but the state elections watchdog later dropped the case because Andi refused to answer summonses.