Indonesian party goes hip to woo voters
INDONESIAN President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's party is putting its presidential hopefuls through an American Idol-style contest that will see them criss-crossing the country for eight months while footing some of the cost.
The contestant who tops a nationwide public survey, to be held by May, will win the Democrat Party nomination for the July election, according to Mr Suaidi Marasabessy, secretary of its convention committee.
Among the 11 standing in the party primary are Mr Pramono Edhie Wibowo, Dr Yudhoyono's brother-in-law and a former army chief of staff, and Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, a former banker.
The winning candidate faces an uphill battle to revive the party's fortunes and lead it to a third straight presidential win, with three senior party officials facing graft charges in the past two years and Dr Yudhoyono's legacy of economic stability threatened by a sliding rupiah and record current-account deficit.
Opinion polls show that voters in the nation with the world's largest Muslim population support other parties.
"It's a desperate way to gain popularity," said Mr Keith Loveard, head of risk analysis at Concord Consulting, a Jakarta-based security and risk-advisory company, of the selection process.
"The Democrats have become - perhaps always were - the machine of SBY and, without SBY there from next year, the party is effectively leaderless," he said, referring to Dr Yudhoyono by his initials.
The President, whose party won the 2009 election and who can't run for a third term, invited his former vice-president, Mr Jusuf Kalla, to take part in the contest, Kompas reported in May. Mr Kalla declined, likening it to Indonesian Idol.
The Democrat candidate may face Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, who has topped several popularity surveys. Another poll favourite is former general Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra party.