JAKARTA - The eldest son of former Indonesian president and Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken charge of the party's campaign efforts ahead of the April 17 general elections.
Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 40, who was once widely touted as a possible candidate for the upcoming presidential polls, took over the role from his father, who is in Singapore where former first lady Ani Yudhoyono is being treated for leukaemia, a party official told The Straits Times.
"Other party machineries have also been directed to mobilise to meet the target of garnering 15 per cent of the seats in Parliament," added party spokesman Imelda Sari.
Mr Agus, who is chairman of the party's joint task force for the 2019 elections, will be assisted by Upper House members Nachrowi Ramli in the western region and Soekarwo in the east.
Dr Yudhoyono, who remains party chairman until 2020, announced this in a Feb 27 decree signed by him and the party's secretary-general Hinca Pandjaitan.
A Democratic Party executive told The Jakarta Post that Mr Agus' duties, now that he is at the helm of the party's national campaign efforts, will be similar to that of the chairman. He will have the power to give instructions to party cadres across the country and will take over his father's activities in the field.
Dr Yudhoyono, the source added, was not in a hurry to hand over the party chairmanship and wanted to be careful before deciding to pass the reins to Mr Agus to avoid an internal split.
"Besides, many cadres in the regions and constituents still rely on the figure of Yudhoyono rather than Agus. Agus is quite popular but still not as influential as his father," the source told the newspaper.
Mr Agus left the military after 16 years to contest the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election. He lost that fight to Mr Anies Bawedan but remains a prominent figure in the political scene, with many believing that Dr Yudhoyono will name Mr Agus as his successor in the party.
Mr Agus was once widely believed to be a top vice-presidential pick for the upcoming polls. But incumbent Joko Widodo decided to run with cleric Ma'ruf Amin while retired army general Prabowo Subianto - whom the Democratic Party is now backing - picked former businessman Sandiaga Uno.
In his letter to the party, Dr Yudhoyono stressed that while he would not be physically present, "my heart remains with the Democratic cadres and candidates in this important fight".
"As I have done all along with Ibu Ani, I actually really want to be physically in the field, fighting with all the cadres and Democratic candidates. But Allah has not allowed it because I have to accompany Ibu Ani in her treatment and healthcare, which is being done intensively at this time," he said.
Dr Yudhoyono was upbeat about his party's efforts to win its targeted votes. "I am sure the instructions I issued to the party's ranks to increase the intensity and effectiveness of the election campaign will be carried out well," he said.
Mr Agus, Mr Nachrowi and Mr Soekarwo are strong and qualified leaders who will be able to spearhead campaigns across the country, he added.
"Democrats are not just good at making promises, but have proved themselves when they were in government. In the future, the party's leadership and cadres will achieve the same success because all the policies and programmes we carry out are the aspirations and hopes of our people, and the answers and solutions to the problems they face."
Dr Yudhoyono advised his party to play an active role in ensuring the elections take place in a peaceful, democratic and fair manner, noting that the polls have seen greater polarisation. This is particularly so in the presidential race where Mr Joko will face off against Mr Prabowo in a tight rematch of the 2014 polls.
"If this situation further develops and exceeds the limits of propriety, I'm concerned that our harmony and integration as a nation will be broken," said Dr Yudhoyono.
"Elections are hard, but they should not cause disunity and disintegration."