Tommy Suharto Wants Presidency, Says Aide

JAKARTA ~ The son of late president Suharto has launched a bid to become president despite a “track record on legal matters” that includes a murder conviction, an aide said this week.

Hutomo Mandala Putra, popularly known as Tommy Suharto, has thrown his hat into the ring to become next leader of the Golkar party, his father’s former political vehicle, which is in turmoil after losing recent elections.

The move comes 11 years after president Suharto resigned amid violent street protests against his 32-year rule, and seven years after Tommy was found guilty of murdering a judge who had convicted him of corruption.

“He surely has ambitions of becoming Indonesian president in future. He will be as good, or even better than his father,” Tommy’s spokesman, Yusyafri Syafei, said.

One of Suharto’s six children, Tommy, 46, has a reputation as a flamboyant playboy on Indonesia’s social scene but has kept a low profile since his release from prison in 2006 after serving just four years for murder.

He fought off a US$61-million civil corruption case in February 2008, winning $550,000 in a countersuit, and successfully fought off another $400-million civil corruption case earlier this year.

His father, who died last year aged 86, allegedly pocketed billions of dollars for himself and his children during his authoritarian reign.

Syafei admitted that Tommy was “not clean” but said he was no different to other politicians in the country.

He also claimed that ordinary Indonesians hankered after the stability of the Suharto years, which saw strong economic growth but appalling corruption and human rights abuses.

“In the blood of Tommy flows the blood of Suharto. That’s natural,” he said.

“It’s an open secret that during Suharto’s era, people didn’t find it hard to find food to eat…. He will have supporters.”

The nationalist Golkar Party was founded by Suharto and has never been in opposition, but its fortunes have waned in recent years and it garnered only 14.45 percent of the vote in general elections in April.

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