Indonesian tycoon and Trump ally Hary Tanoesoedibjo says he'll back Joko in 2019 election

Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo speaks at the Asia TV Forums and Market conference in Singapore on Nov 28, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - An Indonesian media tycoon who has partnered with US President Donald Trump's family said he'll back President Joko Widodo for a second term in 2019.

Mr Hary Tanoesoedibjo, 52, said in an interview on Tuesday (Nov 28) that he decided not to run for the presidency. The founder of media and real estate conglomerate MNC Group chairs the Indonesian Unity Party, and has previously said he felt inspired by Mr Trump to run for president in Indonesia.

"If you look at the situation today, Jokowi is the strongest candidate," Mr Hary said in Singapore, referring to the president by his nickname.

He left open the possibility of running as vice-president, saying: "About myself, I just let it flow."

With the presidential election in South-east Asia's largest economy due in April 2019, parties are already gearing up for what will be a lengthy campaign. It will be the first time that elections for the presidency, national Parliament, state legislatures and local government offices will be held on the same day.

Mr Joko remains popular, presiding over an economy that regained an investment grade sovereign debt rating even as growth has been slower than expected. He has focused on improving infrastructure in the world's largest archipelago.

Among those considering a run against Mr Joko are Mr Prabowo Subianto, runner-up in the 2014 presidential election, and Indonesian National Armed Forces chief Gatot Nurmantyo.

Mr Hary, an ethnic Chinese Christian, has had a longstanding relationship with the Trump Organisation. He currently has deals with the group to upgrade and operate a 700ha resort and golf course in Lido, West Java, and a 100ha complex in Bali.

He was on the guest list for Mr Trump's inauguration, and has often touted his friendship with Mr Trump's children.

Police questioned Mr Hary earlier this year over allegations he sent threatening text messages to a Deputy Attorney-General. He has maintained his innocence.

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