Agence France-Presse - 7/7/2009  

Jusuf Kalla: Canny businessman out from the shadows

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is seeking to topple his boss Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Wednesday's elections, is a calculating political operator with a record of pragmatism.

Kalla, 67, dramatically broke his four-and-a-half year alliance with the president in April after Yudhoyono opened the door for rivals from within Kalla's Golkar party to take his place on the election ticket.

A multi-millionaire businessman, Kalla has billed himself as a "faster, better" alternative to Yudhoyono -- a dig at the president's reputation for indecisiveness.

Kalla has argued he was a key actor behind many of the achievements of Yudhoyono's term, from the fight against corruption to a drop off in deadly attacks by the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network.

He has jealously guarded his reputation as a major player in securing a peace deal with Acehnese separatists in 2005, reacting sourly to any claims of credit for Yudhoyono.

Despite a reputation for charisma and quick-witted one-liners, polls show Kalla's support lags far behind the dour Yudhoyono.

Originally from Sulawesi island, Kalla is an outsider against Yudhoyono and main opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, who are both Javanese, Indonesia's largest ethnic group and voter block.

But Kalla has one thing in common with his two rivals: he also has a senior general from the regime of ex-dictator Suharto on his ticket -- former armed forces chief Wiranto.

Famed in Indonesia for his penchant for publicly singing honeyed love ballads at debates and rallies, Wiranto is better known abroad as an alleged human rights abuser. UN prosecutors in East Timor have indicted Wiranto, 62, for crimes against humanity including murder and forced deportation in violence that wracked the territory after a 1999 referendum calling for independence from Indonesia.

But Wiranto has shrugged off the allegations, putting ahead an alternative image of himself as a pious defender of the nation.

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