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Indonesia ruling party stares into abyss as chairman named graft suspect

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:56 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Jonathan Thatcher

JAKARTA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - The chairman of Indonesia's ruling party was named a suspect by the country's anti-graft agency on Friday, another blow to the political fortunes, and influence, of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as he nears the end of his final term in office.

It also weighs heavily on his Democratic Party, formed as a vehicle to back Yudhoyono's rise to power and a number of whose senior members have fallen foul of the powerful Corruption Eradication Agency (KPK).

"The KPK has decided that AU is a suspect," the anti-corruption agency's spokesman Johan Budi told a news conference He was referring to Anas Urbaningrum, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party.

Anas was also barred from travelling abroad over the case which relates to alleged corruption involving a sports stadium.

After barely a decade of democracy, Indonesia has one of the world's fastest growing economies and is home to its fourth largest population.

While foreign investment continues to pour into the resource-rich country, there are growing concerns that rampant corruption and an incompetent bureaucracy could throttle growth and see that investment turned away.

While Yudhoyono has made the fight against corruption a cornerstone of his rule, there is little sign the problem is waning.

In December, his sports minister was forced to step down after being named as a suspect in a bribery investigation by the KPK.

Indonesia is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt societies and none of the major parties has escaped attack from the KPK. Yudhoyono's party has been especially hard hit.

The constant stream of graft cases comes just as the political season starts to heat up.

For the first time in Indonesia's history, there is no clear front-runner to become the next president.

None of the top parties appears to have an electable candidate which suggests there may have to be alliances with smaller parties and individuals with more popularity. (Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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