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Although Indonesia’s next presidential election will be held in mid-2014, Aburizal Bakrie already announced in 2012 that he would run for the presidency on behalf of the Golkar party, one of the leading political parties of Indonesia and once the strong political vehicle of Suharto during the New Order regime (1965-1998). However, Bakrie, chairman of Golkar and often referred to by his nickname 'Ical', is one of the most controversial figures in modern Indonesian politics and business.
Seeing his business empire (which he inherited from his father) going close to bankruptcy in the turbulent late 1990s when the Asian Financial Crisis hit Indonesia hardest of all involved countries, Bakrie bounced back after a successful refinancing process in the 2000s. In 2008, Forbes placed him on the first spot in its list of richest Indonesians, with his wealth mainly originating from the Bakrie Group. In the latest ‘rich list’ of Indonesian magazine Globe Asia, Bakrie was named as the sixth richest Indonesian (June 2013 edition) with an estimated wealth of USD $2.45 billion.
However, the Bakrie Group has considerable debt. Based on data provided by Lembaga Analis Independen (Independent Analysis Institute) in September 2012, the ten companies affiliated with Bakrie Brothers (the holding company of the Bakrie Group) had a combined debt of IDR 21.4 trillion (about USD $2 billion) up to Q1 2012. About IDR 7.1 trillion of this debt fell due in 2012.
Moreover, US dollar denominated debt reached USD $5.7 billion, USD $275 million of which fell due in 2012. These debt figures are what forms the epicenter of Bakrie’s (business) burden. But apart from debt, another issue is strongly attached to Bakrie. A huge mud flow in Sidoarjo (East Java), brought on due to gas drilling by Lapindo Brantas, ruined more than 600 hectares of land and displaced more than 39,700 people in 2006. The company, however, has always claimed that an earthquake in Yogyakarta, prior to the mud eruption, was the cause of the disaster. It was later revealed that numerous violations were made in connection to Lapindo Brantas' drilling process. The company was partly owned by the Bakrie Group at the time of the disaster. The mud flow is still erupting today. For sure, the Lapindo case is burdensome for Bakrie and is one that will be used by his political enemies in the race for the Indonesian presidency.
Bakrie, born on 15 November 1946, is not new to Indonesian politics as he has had various political positions in his life: president of the ASEAN business forum (1991-1995), president of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1994-2004), Coordinating Minister for Economy (2004-2005), Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare (2005-2009), and chairman of Golkar (since 2009).
In his speech titled "Climbing Mount Semeru", in which he declared his bid for the presidency, Bakrie - with an optimistic tone - said that, like climbing a mountain, there will be thousands of challenges. But despite highs and lows "God willing, I will successfully confront them."
In the speech, Bakrie proposed a number of ideas in case he becomes elected as president. One is to expand the concept of the Trilogy Development (a New Order regime concept that foresees national stability, high economic growth, and social equality) with additional new ideas about Indonesian nationalism becoming the key to national development (Catur Sukses Pembangunan Nasional) in a globalized environment.
But another problem needs to be faced by Bakrie as well. Various surveys indicate that the public in fact prefers another presidential candidate from the Golkar party, namely Jusuf Kalla, a businessman and former vice president (2004 to 2009). The unpopularity of Bakrie and popularity of Kalla can become reason for Golkar to revise its stance on the party's 2014 presidential candidate. Some time ago, chairman of Golkar's Advisory Council, Akbar Tanjung, stated that there is room to change the party's candidate in case support for Bakrie remains low. Thus, with just one more year to go to the elections, it remains uncertain who Golkar's candidate will be.
Top Ten Richest Indonesians:
|1. Robert Hartono & Michael Hartono||Djarum||15.5|
|2. Eka Tjipta Widjaja||Sinar Mas||13.1|
|3. Anthoni Salim||First Pacific||10.1|
|4. Susilo Wonowidjojo||Gudang Garam||6.00|
|5. Martua Sitorus||Wilmar International||3.70|
|6. Aburizal Bakrie||Bakrie Group||2.45|
|7.Putera Sampoerna||Sampoerna Strategic||2.40|
|8. Peter Sondakh||Rajawali Group||2.35|
|9. Mochtar Riady||Lippo Group||2.15|
|10. Sukanto Tanoto||Royal Golden Eagle||2.10|
¹ in billion US dollar
Source: Globe Asia (June 2013)
Agung Budiono is an analyst at Jakarta-based Pol-Tracking Institute