Taufik and inner circle keeping low profile

The power behind the throne has now retreated even more into the shadows.

The President’s influential husband Taufik Kiemas and his inner circle are now keeping a much lower profile. In fact, the Sumatran-born tycoon is due to leave for the United States and Europe on a two-week holiday.

A well-placed source in the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P) told The Straits Times: ‘The consensus of Ibu Mega’s advisers was that it would be better for Taufik to keep away from the public spotlight. They want her to run the show rather than her husband.’

Several PDI-P members have been critical of Mr Taufik’s involvement in politics and shady dealings, blaming him for the drastic drop in votes in this general election.

In 1999, the PDI-P secured 33.7 per cent of the votes. Today, it is trailing behind Golkar by a slim margin but has slid by almost 14 percentage points.

Mr Taufik is known as a very powerful, although unconventional, player in government. Holding no official position, except as a legislator, he does not work by the official channels.

But his networking and ability to navigate the subterranean levels of politics are second to none. In the past, he has done wonders for the reticent and media-shy President by being her chief negotiator and public defender.

He also whittles down her opponents, but has been criticised for overstepping the boundaries.

The most glaring was the fracas with former security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Mr Taufik chided him as a ‘child’ for turning to the media when the retired general was sidelined.

Such comments irritated elements in the military. More importantly, it led to growing sympathy for Mr Bambang, whose Partai Demokrat performed beyond expectations in the polls. A friend of Mr Taufik described him as being despondent about the PDI-P’s performance.

‘He was so down. The harsh reality of politics is beginning to sink in. He is not used to keeping a low profile.’

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