President Picks Central Bank Chief as Running Mate

JAKARTA ~ President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to name the central bank governor as his running mate in the July presidential election, a move backed by business leaders.

But the choice of Bank Indonesia Governor Boediono has angered Yudhoyono’s coalition partners including Islamic parties, which have said they will not accept a “neoliberal” economist with perceived links to the United States.

“The president… has made his decision based on Boediono’s professionalism, integrity and loyalty,” Marzuki Ali, secretary-general of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, said.

“His ability in the economic field is undoubted.”

Boediono, 66, was coordinating minister for the economy before being appointed a year ago to lead the central bank out of a massive corruption scandal that had tarnished its international standing.

He has worked closely with respected Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to steer Southeast Asia’s biggest economy through the US-led financial crisis, with growth forecast at around four percent this year and six percent in 2010.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman M.S Hidayat said the Australian and US-educated technocrat was a steady hand who could be trusted to look after the economy during the global downturn.

“It will bring positive sentiment to our market as he is highly respected for his professionalism and his ability in leading Indonesia’s economy in the face of the global financial crisis,” he said.

“If he is Yudhoyono’s vice president, he will be given great power to monitor economic issues in the cabinet. His number-one job will be to handle the global financial crisis and the country’s economic growth.”

Yudhoyono is seeking re-election on July 8 for a second five-year term on a platform of sound economic management and clean government.

Opinion polls put him well ahead of his closest possible rival, ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri of the Democratic Party of Struggle.

Yudhoyono’s Democrats won 20.85 percent of ballots cast in April 9 legislative polls, nearly tripling their total from 2004 and becoming the strongest party in parliament.

The small Islamic parties that had backed Yudhoyono’s campaign were expecting one of their leaders to be chosen as running mate in exchange for their support.

Anis Matta of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party said his colleagues were opposed to Boediono’s nomination because a vice-president “should represent Muslim communities.”

Matta said the four Islamic parties were now considering switching their loyalties to another presidential candidate, opening the way for more political horse-trading ahead of the elections.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country but Islamic parties have little support when it comes to the ballot box.

Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general, has publicly announced that his key criteria for a running mate include loyalty, honesty and integrity.

Filed under: The Nation

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