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Indonesia love coalition - tongues wag

2011-11-24 19:11

Jakarta - Indonesia's political elite gathered at a palace in the mountains of Java on Thursday to watch the youngest son of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono marry the daughter of his most ambitious minister.

The lavish wedding, dubbed a "love coalition" by local media, has sparked speculation that it could benefit the father of the bride, senior economics minister Hatta Rajasa, in his probable bid for the presidency in 2014.

Yudhoyono, who cannot run for a third term in 2014 and has yet to name a successor, has denied the marriage was about politics. Regardless, his Democrat Party is in a coalition government with Rajasa's PAN party.

"This is a step towards a coalition between the Democrat Party and PAN to support Rajasa in 2014," Max Sopacua, the vice-chair of the Democrat Party, was quoted as saying by Tempo newspaper. "But, like playing chess, there are 10 to 12 more steps."

Political stability and a strong economy have drawn investment to Indonesia since Yudhoyono was re-elected in a landslide in 2009, although the next election is wide open and analysts worry its winner could be less market-friendly.

The silver-haired Rajasa is among the more popular figures in a government that has seen waning popularity this year due to corruption scandals. An endorsement by Yudhoyono, still the country's most popular politician, would probably be a positive sign for voters in the world's fourth most populous nation.

The three-day wedding ceremonies have drawn blanket media coverage, with the Javanese rituals including Yudhoyono pouring water over his son, releasing a rooster in front of his house and giving a dowry of 100g of gold coins to Rajasa.

Rajasa, from Sumatra island, will face powerful competition for the top job from former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, as well as Prabowo Subianto, once the son-in-law of former autocratic leader Suharto.

Aburizal Bakrie, a business tycoon and head of the largest party, Golkar, and another coalition member, also looks set to run. Fans of former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, now at the World Bank, have formed a political party for her but she has yet to commit.

Several politicians have already formed campaign teams and have asked polling agents to check on their popularity. There was no sign that Thursday's "royal" wedding, involving 1 000 guests at a presidential palace, was improving Rajasa's chances in the eyes of the public.

"It is love, indeed. Love for everlasting political power," said Adityoari in a comment on the Jakarta Globe newspaper's website.