Indonesia: Soeharto's son aims to be president?

The son of the former president Soeharto, Hutomo Mandala Putra announced that he's ready to be the chairman of one of Indonesia's prominent political party Golongan Karya (Golkar).

In 2002, Tommy, as he is affectionatelly called, was convicted for corruption, illegal arms possession and evading justice after he was found masterminding an assasination of Supreme Court Judge Syafiuddin Kartasasmita [id].

The court sentanced him to 15 years of jail, however, he was released in 2006 after serving only four years of his term.

Interviewed by the local media, Tommy said that it is his moral obligation and his personal calling to return to politics, to manage Golkar, the party that his father founded and formed.

Supreme Court Judge Syafiuddin KartasasmitaSupreme Court J

According to Nanang, Tommy's political move is a predictable one, but it's too soon.

Cukup mengejutkan bagi saya, ketika Tommy Suharto memutuskan kembali ke dunia politik secepat ini. Terlebih lewat jalur partai Golkar yg kelahirannya dibidani oleh ayahnya sendiri, Alm. Soeharto. Saya pernah berpikir, Tommy pasti akan kembali ke dunia politik (tapi tidak secepat ini) dan dia akan membuat partai baru atau mungkin akan join ke salah satu partai baru. Gerindra misalnya, dimana di sana ada Prabowo yg cukup dekat dengan kalangan keluarga Cendana.

It's quite surprising for me to hear Tommy Suharto has decided to return to the world of politics this early. Moreover, to learn that he chooses [to do it] through Golkar party which his father, the deceased Soeharto helped founded. I thought that he will of course return to the world of politics (but not this soon) and that he will establish a new party or perhaps he'll join one of the newly established parties. Gerindra for example, with Prabowo who's known to be closely tied with the Cendana family [writer's note: Soeharto's clan].

Even with the efforts to rebrand the party, the New Order continues to overshadow Golkar, said Nanang.


Golkar dan orde baru sulit utk dipisahkan. Golkar selalu identik dengan orde baru. Pasca reformasi, citra tersebut sekuat tenaga diubah oleh akbar tanjung dan juga jusuf kalla. Golkar mengklaim bahwa partai golkar adalah partai yg paling berhasil mereformasi diri. Golkar baru, yg tidak ada lagi sangkut pautnya dengan orde baru (cendana). Namun, dengan masuknya Tommy sebagai kandidat ketum, bisa jadi apa yg telah dilakukan oleh akbar tanjung dan jusuf kalla menjadi sia2 belaka. Golkar bisa blunder jika kemudian Tommy berhasil menjadi pimpinan di parta beringin ini. Ngga ada lagi reformasi, yg ada mungkin Tommy akan meneruskan model kepemimpinan seperti ayahnya. Buah tidak akan jatuh jauh dari pohonnya.


Golkar and the (Soeharto's regime) New Order are hard to be separated from one another. Golkar is always identifiable as a part of the New Order. Post reformation, Akbar Tanjung as well as Jusuf Kalla worked hard to revise that image.  Golkar claimed that it's the most successfully reformed party. The new Golkar, has nothing to do with the New Order (Cendana family). But having Tommy as Chairman candidate would make what ever efforts made by Akbar Tanjung and Jusuf Kalla useless. Golkar can become a blunder if Tommy managed to become this party's chairman. No more reformation, what would happen is that Tommy will continue a leadership model like his father's. Apple doesn't fall far from its tree.

Pelopor said that Tommy will hardly succeed in getting what he wants:

Perhaps the guy can’t help it. He has been raised in a family used to pull the strings, to set the rules, to be the law and take the money, after all.  Anyone would get his personality twisted by such kind of education. It’s incurable apparently.

Well, he will not succeed of course. There is only this  hope left for him: some good friend should tell he him he  had better hide  under a stone for the rest of his life.

a0z0ra commented on Pelopor's post, saying:

Wrong timing. People are still super mad at him, and he hasn’t do anything about that yet.

Let’s say that if Tommy did a great job at changing his image (donate to charities, do heroic works etc etc), people might (just might!) consider to accept him.

Right now it’s just appalling. No common sense.

calvin , who's also commenting on Pelopor's post, saw this political twist as a bitter comedy:

if people accept Tommy, it means Indonesians should be awarded with the “history amnesiac nation award”. I’m speechless even to think the possibility that guy could be accepted to society since he’s the reason of Soeharto’s fall of grace (and our nation as well). this is too pathetic that makes it funny.

Indonesian twitterers are also sharing their opinions regarding this matter:

responses on tommy

Syafril Djaelani wondered what Golkar would become, if Tommy is chosen as chairman, which means that he could easily run as president in 2014 election. Syafril noted:

Majunya Tommy Soeharto sebagai kandidat ketum partai golkar ditaggapi beragam oleh berbagai kalangan. Tidak sedikit yang sinis dan ada juga yang senang. Ini semua tak lepas dari berbagai kepentingan masing-masing orang. Kalangan yang sinis beranggapan bahwa Tommy Soeharto tidak layak menjadi ketum dikarenakan track record dirinya. Bisa dibayangkan jika seorang pemimpin partai pernah terlibat criminal pembunuhan, koruptor, dan pebisnis kotor. Apa jadinya partai Golkar jika dipimpin oleh orang seperti itu.

Tommy's emergence as candidate of Golkar's chairman is perceived differently by the people. Many are  cynical and some are glad. Each perception differs depending on their personal agenda.  The cynical ones think that Tommy isn't fit for chairmanship because of his personal track record. Imagine someone to lead a party, and that person was accused of murder, corruption and is a foul businessman. What would Golkar become to be chiefed by such man.

Syafril also added that being Golkar chairman means that Tommy will be eligible to become Indonesia's next president.


Majunya Tommy Soeharto sebagai kandidat ketum Golkar diperkirakan persiapan dirinya untuk memperebutkan kursi RI1 di tahun 2014 nanti. Jika benar sinyalemen ini maka pada tahun 2014 nanti ada 2 kandidat capres dari Cendana yakni Tommy Soeharto dan Prabowo Subianto (baca juga tulisan saya calon-calon pemimpin masa depan Indonesia).


Lupa atas segala kejahatan yang telah dilakukan pemimpinnya asalkan dia punya duit banyak. Alangkah sedihnya hatiku.


Tommy's candidacy to be Golkar's chairman is assumed to be his preparation to run as president in  Indonesia's 2014 presidential election. If this signal is correct, than there are 2 Cendana-backed presidential candidates, Tommy Soeharto and Prabowo Subianto (read also my post about Indonesia's future leaders).


(It seems to me that) Indonesians (are wiling to) forget the crimes done by their leaders, as long as they are wealthy. My heart is saddened.

An article by Times magazine revealed that the favorite son of Indonesia's longest ruling president is worth US$ 800 million, including part ownership of an 18-hole golf course in Ascot, England. Back in the 1990s, Tommy held the  majority ownership of the luxury Italian carmaker Lamborghini.  Until May 2009, the BNP Paribas suspended his account in Guernsey which held some €36 million, that was opened under Garnet Investment Limited.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site