Akbar expects three-way fight and run-off poll

He names Wiranto, Mega and Bambang as the most likely presidential contenders to make it to second round in September.

THE presidential race in Indonesia will be a three-way fight and could drag on to a run-off in September, the country’s most seasoned politician predicted yesterday.

Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung said he saw the July 5 polls as a test of strength between three contenders: retired generals Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Wiranto, and incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Speaking on the Indonesian presidential elections at a seminar in Singapore, organised jointly by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies and The Straits Times, he said the three – out of a field of five candidates – were the ones most likely to make it to a second round in September.

The 58-year-old also alluded to another power struggle: between him and Golkar presidential candidate Wiranto.

He said that even if Mr Wiranto clinched the presidency, he would still have to abide by an agreement to work with Golkar.

‘As party leader, I still have a strong position,’ he said. ‘The agreement is that Wiranto will consult the party … he will set up the Cabinet with our approval.’

Stunned by Mr Wiranto’s victory over Mr Akbar at last month’s Golkar convention, the Akbar camp had expressed reservations privately about the former general’s candidacy.

But yesterday, Mr Akbar spoke positively about Mr Wiranto’s chances, in a move that suggests the Golkar chief was keeping all options open, including cutting a deal with his rival that could see him being offered the post of senior presidential adviser.

Mr Akbar estimated that Golkar’s presidential contender could garner about 36.5 million votes, or 32 per cent of the total, drawing on his party base as well as those of his running mate, Mr Solahuddin Wahid.

He is the younger brother of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, who still has enormous influence in the country’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and the affiliated Nation Awakening Party (PKB).

Mr Akbar noted that besides NU and PKB, Mr Wiranto could also get support from smaller parties such as the Indonesian Nahdlatul Ummah Party and the Nationhood Democratic Party.

But his two other rivals are running close. President Megawati, he noted, already had in hand about 21 million votes, based on her party’s performance in the April parliamentary polls. Her No 2, NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi, would add votes from his supporters in East Java.

Mr Akbar said Mr Bambang, known popularly as SBY, and partner Jusuf Kalla were also doing well, attracting support in the cities as well as the heartlands.

‘SBY’s popularity will help him in obtaining many swing votes from other political parties,’ he said.

Mr Akbar, who is accompanied by several Golkar legislators on his one-day trip to Singapore, also met Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi last night for dinner.

The IDSS-Straits Times forum on the Indonesian presidential election will feature Mr Bambang tomorrow.

Mr Abdurrahman is scheduled to speak next week.

AS PARTY LEADER, I STILL HAVE A STRONG POSITION. THE AGREEMENT IS THAT WIRANTO WILL CONSULT THE PARTY … HE WILL SET UP THE CABINET WITH OUR APPROVAL.’
– Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung (left), who lost to Mr Wiranto in the contest to be the Golkar presidential candidate

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