Indonesian leader's corruption-mired party to sit out poll

Indonesian leader's corruption-mired party to sit out poll
Indonesia's President and chairman of the Democrate party Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono leaves the stage after delivering a speech during the closing of his party convention ahead of the July 2014 presidential election in Jakarta.

JAKARTA - The Indonesian leader's crisis-hit party said Tuesday it would not formally back either of the contenders running to be president at July elections after failing to field its own candidate.

The decision to play no substantial role in the vote highlights the dramatic fall from grace of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's once powerful Democratic Party following a string of corruption scandals.

The July 9 presidential election is a fight between frontrunner Joko Widodo, known by his nickname of Jokowi, and ex-general Prabowo Subianto, and both have been forming coalitions in recent weeks to support their bids.

But Democratic Party executive director Syarief Hasan told reporters on Tuesday that "the Democratic Party will not formally join either... camp".

However he said that the party, which currently governs at the head of a six-party coalition, would decide at a later date who to support.

The Democratic Party was created in 2001 to carry Yudhoyono to the presidency in 2004.

He stormed to a second term five years later on a corruption-fighting platform only for support to collapse after leading party members, from the sports minister to the treasurer, became embroiled in graft scandals.

The party saw its support halve to around 10 per cent at legislative elections in April, far below the 25 per cent of the national vote needed to field a candidate at the presidential polls in July.

There was speculation it may try to put forward a candidate by joining up with smaller parties but a coalition did not materialise.

Yudhoyono was constitutionally barred from running for a third term.

Paul Rowland, a Jakarta-based independent analyst, said of the Democratic Party's decision: "Certainly it's a fall from grace in terms of their direction over the past decade."

Widodo, who won legions of followers during his time as Jakarta governor due to his common touch, has been leading opinion polls for months.

However the race tightened Monday when the country's second-biggest party, Golkar, unexpectedly joined Prabowo's coalition, making it larger than the one backing Widodo in terms of the national vote.

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