Channel NewsAsia

Indonesia's Democratic Party split over presidential vote

All political parties have pledged their backing for either of the two candidates for Indonesia's presidential election -- except President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.

JAKARTA: The official campaign period for Indonesia's presidential election kicked off on Wednesday, and the two presidential candidates have made a commitment to carry out their campaigns peacefully and with integrity.

All political parties have pledged their backing for either of the two candidates -- except President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.

President Yudhoyono, who is also head of the Democratic Party, has even called on his ministers to resign from their cabinet posts if they are involved in any presidential election campaigns.

But a number of his senior party members and ministers have broken ranks.

Observers say its neutrality is only a strategy.

"They are using a last lap strategy," said Ardian Sopa, Researcher, Indonesian Survey Circle. "They will wait until the very last minute before throwing their support behind the candidate that is likely to win"

Some analysts believe the Democratic Party has unofficially backed Prabowo Subianto.

"There're indications the Democratic Party has made their choice," said Ilman Nafian, Head of Research, Soegeng Sarjadi School of Government. "Several Democratic senior members have said the party's vision and mission are similar to Prabowo's."

But there are others within the Democratic Party who are supporting the other presidential candidate -- Joko Widodo.

Dahlan Iskan, winner of the Democratic Party's Presidential Convention, is one of them.

The support of the Democratic Party is important, as it has 10 per cent of seats in parliament -- giving the next coalition government, whether it is formed by Prabowo Subianto or Joko Widodo, a strong boost.

The political temperature is expected to rise a couple of notches as candidates hit the campaign trail.

And over the next month the only respite Indonesians (who are fanatical football fans) will get from politics will be the World Cup and the fasting month of Ramadan.

But that respite may prove rather limited as there is nothing to stop the candidates from using Ramadan and the World Cup to build political support. 

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia