Indonesia presidential hopeful irked by clips of teddy cuddling with actresses

INDONESIA - Golkar Party chairman and presidential hopeful Aburizal Bakrie has recently been the subject of ridicule on social media after footage of his overseas jaunt with celebrity sisters and a teddy bear went viral.

Footage on YouTube lasting three and a half minutes, along with several pictures, features Aburizal, outspoken and controversial Golkar lawmaker Aziz Syamsuddin, as well as celebrity sisters Marcella Zalianty and Olivia Zalianty, on a private jet heading to Maldives.

In the footage, a teddy bear is cuddled alternately by Marcella and Olivia, and in another, by Aburizal, who looks intimate with the fluffy brown toy. The footage revealed that Aburizal was not accompanied by his wife Tatty Murnitriati on the trip.

As the issue is deemed damaging for Golkar, Aburizal held a press conference on Sunday on the sidelines of a campaign event in Semarang, Central Java, to explain the video.

"Hugging a teddy bear is normal. What's wrong with it?" he quipped.

"I am really concerned because the circulation of this video happened when Golkar is campaigning for a better Indonesia," Aburizal said.

"I was alerted even before I declared my presidential candidacy in 2012 that smear campaigns could intensify, but my family braced for it," Aburizal said while holding a teddy bear.

Accompanying him at the press briefing were his wife Tatty, their sons Anindya Novyan Bakrie, Anindra Ardiansyah Bakrie and his wife Nia Ramadhani, as well as Golkar secretary-general Idrus Marham.

Aburizal brushed off allegations that the group visited the resort nation on a vacation.

He said they were on "a research mission" to explore Maldives' tourism.

"The Maldives is a very small country, but its tourists exceed that of Indonesia's. We brought along the two sisters because they're very concerned about tourism. Olivia happens to enjoy diving while Marcella likes making videos about marine tourism," he said.

"If the Maldives can [be a popular tourist destination], why can't Labuan Bajo, Maluku and Bunaken?" Aburizal asked.

The video appeared to be shot in May 2010.

Parts of the video included footage of them on a luxury aircraft, which is believed to be Aburizal's private jet.

Scenes of places that looked like a luxury resort also featured the sisters and Aziz, who is a staunch campaigner for the termination of the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) authority.

One of the places they visited was the W Retreat & Spa - an upmarket resort on Fesdu Island where the two-bedroom "Ocean Haven" currently fetches up to US$8,400 a night.

Tatty told the conference that she had no problem with her husband being with the two actresses on the Maldives trip.

"Marcella and Olivia are friends of our children and we treat them like our own daughters," she said.

"I will stand staunchly behind my husband to defend him against political opponents who want to assassinate his character," Tatty said, adding that they would not file any legal complaints following the leaks of the video and pictures.

An advertisement regularly aired on Aburizal's television station TVOne portrays Aburizal as a religiously devoted family man, with Tatty as a dedicated wife.

Idrus claimed the issue would not affect Golkar's or Aburizal's electability.

"Voters are too smart to believe it is anything but a cheap shot," he said. "We are not going to waste our energy dealing with this.

"The video and pictures are no secret. There is nothing worth debating. We knew they would be exploited beforehand," he said.

Idrus insisted that a number of other people were on the same fact-finding trip but did not appear in the video.

Regardless of Aburizal's clarification, social media users continued to ridicule the Maldives incident.

"After the circulation of the 'Maladewa movie', teddy bears disappeared from the market!" Twitter user @emerson_yuntho posted on Sunday.

University of Indonesia political analyst Maswadi Rauf said that voters would "punish" Aburizal and Aziz for going on vacation with women who were not their muhrim (lawful spouse).

"This is about morality. People will have a bad image of them and Golkar," he said.