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Indonesia's trade minister resigns to focus on presidential campaign

Published on Jan 31, 2014 11:22 AM
 
Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said on Jan 31, 2014, that he will resign his post effective immediately to focus on his campaign to win the presidential nomination for the ruling Democratic Party. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (REUTERS) -  Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said on Friday he had resigned, effective immediately, to focus on his campaign to win the presidential nomination for the ruling Democratic Party.

The U.S.-educated former investment banker is one of 10 candidates vying for presidential nomination by the party, whose fortunes have been slumping in opinion polls. “I already met the president two days ago and he accepted it,” he told reporters.

State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, a media magnate, is expected to throw his hat in the ring, forcing a small cabinet reshuffle as early as this weekend. But as the government has only a few months left in office, it is unlikely that the new ministers will be able to implement major policy changes.

The general election is in April. Political parties must secure either 20 percent of the seats or 25 percent of the vote to nominate a candidate for the July presidential election. Few, if any, are expected to reach that threshhold, forcing the parties to form alliances to get their candidate into the presidential race.

The telegenic Mr Wirjawan barely registers in recent opinion polls. He said he would target the huge young vote, women and the more than a third of the electorate which he said did not vote.

The most popular presidential hopeful is Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi. However, the main opposition party to which he is allied says it will not name its candidate until after the April parliamentary election.

As the elections approach, concerns grow over the failure of the outgoing government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to resolve major problems facing Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

In particular, weak infrastructure is blamed for holding back the industrial sector and allowing regional competitors to pull ahead.

Mr Yudhoyono, who cannot run again after two terms in office, has faced criticism for vacillating over key issues. Much of Mr Jokowi’s popularity appears to lie in his straightforward style of leadership and his ability to engage ordinary Indonesians who see him as being on their side.

 

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