Bakrie keen to bring back the good times

Bakrie keen to bring back the good times
Tycoon Aburizal Bakrie delivering his speech yesterday during campaigning for the legislative election in Jakarta. His goal: A modern, progressive and prosperous Indonesia by the time it turns 100 in 2045.

Sixteen years ago, the Asian financial crisis sent the fortunes of Mr Aburizal Bakrie's family business empire tumbling, just as it dealt a devastating setback to the ruling Golkar Party of which he was an MP.

Today, business is back on track, and Mr Bakrie, 67, wants to repeat the turnaround with the party of former president Suharto which he now heads.

Ever pragmatic, he believes Golkar will be able to draw votes among people who remember the price stability that marked much of Suharto's New Order administration from 1966 to 1998.

"They feel their living conditions were better off under the New Order," he tells The Straits Times in an interview in his 46th-storey Bakrie Tower office, citing his conversations with farmers, fishermen, traders and students in trips across the country.

He also claims to be unfazed by opinion polls which show him running behind Jakarta governor Joko Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle and Gerindra's former general Prabowo Subianto in the presidential race.

"Jokowi is my good friend and my younger brother. I know him well," he said on the campaign trail in Lampung on Monday.

Everything is possible during an election, he added in East Jakarta on Tuesday. "Jokowi can become my vice-presidential candidate," he said.

Mr Bakrie is counting on his early head start - he was the first to launch his presidential bid, way back in July 2012 - and his media outlets. Advertisements featuring him - using his initials ARB - have run again and again on the TV channels his group controls.

Asked about the progress of his campaign, Mr Bakrie says he has never campaigned. Those numerous cross-country visits and roadshows to meet students do not count in his eyes; they are more in the nature of motivational sessions.

"I don't ask them to vote for Golkar or ARB for president," he quips. "Always, to keep the motivation, that the future is rosy, not bleak, (to) fire up their spirit. Same for farmers and fishermen."

"I tell them that Indonesia has six presidents, whose legacies differed, but who all contributed," he adds.

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