Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president of Indonesia, on Friday chose the central bank governor, Boediono, as his running mate for July’s elections as figures showed the economy faring better than the rest of Asia.
Mr Yudhoyono was forced to choose a new running mate after Jusuf Kalla, the vice-president, decided to run for the top job in the July 8 presidential poll.
The third candidate will be Mr Yudhoyono’s predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri. On Friday night, she announced that she would run with Prabowo Subianto, a former general and son-in-law of the late dictator Suharto, who has reinvented himself as a populist politician. The nomination deadline is on Saturday.
Mr Yudhoyono was bolstered on Friday by the statistics agency announcing that Indonesia’s economy grew by 4.4 per cent, year on year, in the first quarter of 2009. This was down from 5.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, but Moody’s, the ratings agency, said in a report that it expected Indonesia’s economy to be “one of the best performers in Asia this year”.
Mr Yudhoyono, who has an approval rating of around 67 per cent, is widely expected to win re-election.
Riding on his popularity, his Democrat party almost tripled its vote in last month’s parliamentary election to become the biggest party, with more than a quarter of the seats.
Analysts say choosing a technocrat rather than cementing an alliance with one of the smaller Islamic parties demonstrates Mr Yudhoyono’s confidence and his desire to perpetuate his reform agenda.
Mr Boediono, 66, resigned as central bank governor on Friday. He is seen as modest, clean and unlikely to be a potential challenger to the retired general. He served as Mr Yudhoyono’s chief economics minister for three years before moving to Bank Indonesia.
Sunny Tanuwidjaja, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said Mr Boediono would command market and businesspeople’s respect.
“He lacks the experience of politics,” he said. “But in 2004, under Megawati’s presidency, when he was the finance minister, I think his ability to get approvals from the cabinet and also from the parliament shows he’s not bad at all in bargaining with politicians.”
Representatives from several political parties, including Islamic ones, endorsed Mr Yudhoyono at his declaration ceremony. With unprecedented razzmatazz, it smacked more of a US party convention than a customary Indonesian gathering.
The smaller parties are expected to be rewarded with cabinet seats if Mr Yudhoyono wins.
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