With the Indonesian general and presidential elections to happen in 2009, and seeing everyone is talking about it already, I have decided to join the fray. Here are some personal thoughts on what may transpire over the coming 18 months or so!
Even at this stage it seems as though it is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's (SBY) election to lose. The reality is that there simply has not been any new potential candidates come through the ranks that have attracted attention or energized the masses. This is going to be another election in the transition to full-fledged democracy where entrenched interests and the old political elite will still dominate the presidential and senior leadership (parliament speaker) elections.
So, who might run?
Megawati - A former president of questionable leadership ability who relies heavily on the charismatic charm of her long-dead father, Sukarno. There have even been suggestions that she still converses with her father and has sort his permission to run again in 2009; scary thought when you think about it. If she wins then public policy in Indonesia is going to be through seances with the dead!
Amien Rais - Says he won't and he should do what he says! Enough said.
Jusuf Kalla - Head of Golkar, filthy rich, and from Sulawesi. Being the Head of Golkar provides some leverage but it is worth noting that there is not universal support for him as evidenced by the fact that Wiranto got up to beat him last time around.
Wiranto - Serious questions about his human rights record but he has proven to be fairly teflon in that regard so far. He failed to attract support last time around and has since created his own party, the Conscience Party (Hati Nurani). It is unclear whether this is an electoral vehicle or just a poor attempt to clear his own conscience? He can sing, so that is something he has in common with the current President.
Gus Dur - See my earlier post. He will not pass the medical. But he might be able to exert some influence if the National Awakening Party (PKB) garner enough electoral support.
Hamengkubuwono X - The Sultan of Yogyakarta is one of the perennial candidates in name but despite his seemingly huge popularity in Yogyakarta and throughout Java (to a degree) this has never translated into broad-based appeal that would see him as an electable choice.
Sutiyoso - The former Governor of Jakarta. He has some minor party support that spurred him to announce his candidacy for the top job. However, this is yet to translate into any endorsements from the major parties. Potentially a player though if any of the major parties consider him a vote getter in Jakarta but that is hard to see as his record in Jakarta is mixed at best - a vice-president perhaps?
There are likely to be a few other names mentioned such as Hidayat Nur Wahid of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) which have become an increasingly important political force with a very strong base in Jakarta.
Maybe by 2014 some new younger faces less entrenched in the ways of the old political elite will emerge. But I do not see them coming to the fore before the elections are held in 2009. Stranger things have happened, so one can always hope, right?