The Unconventional Convention
    Category: Column By : Taufik Darusman Read : 1015 Date : Monday, July 08, 2013 - 00:38:04

    As President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono is by law barred from running for a third term, he is determined to see his Democratic Party (PD) remain relevant after he steps down next year. Leaving nothing to chance, in March he appointed himself chairman of PD and retained his son as secretary-general while making sure loyalists held key positions. In case the message fails to get through within PD's rank and file, he has seen to it that all PD candidates for next year's legislative election requires his personal endorsement.

    Now high on Yudhoyo-no's agenda is PD's 2014 presidential candidate. A few months ago it would merely be a toss up between Youth and Sports Andi Mallarangeng and PD's then chairman Anas Urbaningrum. But both have been scrapped from the short list as antigraft body KPK is set to bring them to court for alleged corruption.


    In a subtle but nevertheless blunt admission that PD lacks qualified candidates to replace Anas and Andi, Yudhoyono has had another idea to find the right presidential candidate for PD: a party convention that allows also non-PD members to take part. However, details of the convention have remained sketchy, with senior PD leaders, each with their own agendas, offering different takes of Yudhoyono's idea.

    What is so far rather clear is that the PD leadership is currently setting up the convention's committee that will register aspiring candidates in August. They, according to PD senior leader and House Speaker Marzuki Alie, will then go through a selection process that will look into their “proven integrity, experience in public service, capability, and non-involvement in legal cases.” Once they made it as a PD aspiring presidential candidate, they will be given four months to do their political sales pitch and take part in public debates.

    In April Yudhoyono gave the nod to Chairman of the Regional Representatives (DPD) Irman Gusman, 51, to take part in the convention. A few weeks later Marzuki, 58, claimed that Yudhoyono had sent a text message asking him to do the same. Both have yet to state publicly their plans but are likely to register in August. Trade Minister Gita Wiryawan, 48, is likely to join as he has publicly expressed interest in the nation's number one spot. Another possible aspirant is Mahfud MD, 56, the former Constitutional Court chief, who insists on first studying the convention's terms and conditions. In any case, Amir Syamsuddin, a senior PD leader and Cabinet minister, stated that the convention is “open to all” and that no invitations will be extended.

    To be sure, Yudhoyono's convention idea had caught not only the public but also PD's elite by surprise. Prior to the announcement, PD had been toying with the idea of fielding former Army chief and Yudhoyono brother-in-law, Pramono Edhie Wibowo or, rather incredibly and desperately, Yudhoyono's wife, Kristiani Herrawati, 61.