Retired army general Pramono Edhie Wibowo has officially joined the Democratic Party, party officials have confirmed, opening the door to him becoming the ailing party’s presidential candidate next year.
The Democratic Party’s executive chairman, Cooperatives Minister Syarief Hasan, said on Saturday that Pramono joined the party “shortly after his retirement.” Pramono, Syarief said, is now one of the party’s advisory board members.
There has been speculation President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who chairs the party and is married to Pramono’s sister Ani, has been grooming Pramono as his successor.
Yudhoyono has insisted that no members of his immediate family will seek the presidency in 2014, but conspicuously glossed over any mention of Pramono.
Pramono, who retired from his position as Army Chief of Staff late last month, made his debut appearance as a Democratic Party official at its National Coordination Meeting at the Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel in Central Jakarta on Saturday. He was wearing the party’s official blue jacket.
The retired four-star general, who earlier said he had no interest in politics, said that Yudhoyono had persuaded him to join the party.
“Please consider joining [the Democrats],” Pramono quoted Yudhoyono as saying. “I said to him, ‘I must consult this with my wife and children because this is a huge responsibility’ ... and they agreed.”
Central Java-born Pramono, 58, served two years as head of the nation’s military. His father was Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, himself a much-feared military leader during the rule of President Suharto.
The Democrats have been secretive about their pick for the presidency given that by law, Yudhoyono cannot run for a third term. Analyst say the pick could be fundamental to future of the party, whose popularity has declined amid several graft cases and a much-publicized internal rift.
Yudhoyono, analysts say, is reluctant to choose cadres from inside the party, hence the Democrats’ effort to delay a much-anticipated national convention to determine its next presidential candidate.
Among those people in the mix to be the party’s presidential candidate are Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, a non-partisan technocrat; former Constitutional Court chief Mahfud M.D., a former National Awakening Party (PKB) politician; and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, a cadre from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
With Pramono now on board, it is possible the convention may happen soon.
Syarief confirmed that the convention was among the issues discussed during Saturday’s meeting, as was the set of requirements for candidates. “We are formulating [the requirements]. They should be announced in a day or two,” he said.