The Jakarta Post
Picking a trusted person to lead a strategic institution like the Army is absolutely the privilege of the President.
Last Thursday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo installed Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) chief Lt. Gen. Andika Perkasa as the new Army chief of staff.
Jokowi said his choice of Andika, a 1987 graduate of the Military Academy, was solely based on professional considerations and that the new chief of staff had served in combat and military operations, military education and training, territorial command, as well as military communication and information posts. Those posts and university degrees have frequently been described as key prerequisites for eligible candidates to win key or top military positions, including in the Army.
However, it would be too naïve to disregard widespread claims that Andika’s appointment has political motives, as it is obvious that politics matters in any policies or decisions made by the President. After all, subjectivity of the President in appointing persons for key positions in the military is granted by the Constitution.
A total of 10 active Army personnel of three-star rank of different classes— 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987 — were initially designated as eligible candidates for the number one post in the Army. Preliminary screening of their ages, chiefly to rule out those nearing the mandatory retirement age of 58, and their career path in the military immediately halved their number to only five. After that, it was personal consideration and the calculation of the President — certainly after input and insights from within and outside his circle — that played the key role in his eventual decision to appoint Andika to replace Gen. Mulyono as the Army chief.
There have been controversies surrounding the selection process and particularly on Andika’s military career record and profile, including the fact that he is the son-in-law of AM Hendropriyono, the former chief of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), who has long been a close confidant and chief supporter of Jokowi. But the complex selection process has finished and the new Army chief has been appointed. The decision is final, unless something extraordinary happens or is revealed that could invalidate his appointment, it is therefore irrelevant to question Andika’s eligibility as Army chief.
It is perhaps more noteworthy to anticipate Andika’s future military career. Upon his appointment as the new Army chief, Andika has immediately been tipped as a strong candidate to be the next Indonesian Military (TNI) commander.
As the Army chief, Andika is granted the privilege by the 2004 TNI Law to be nominated as the TNI commander. Paragraph 4 of Article 13 limits the race for the TNI commander post to active four-star generals who have served as chief of any of the three military branches — the Air Force, the Army and the Navy.
However, as with the selection process for Air Force, Army and Navy chiefs, the final say on who will be the next TNI commander rests with the President. And as the simultaneous presidential and legislative elections are only five months away, it is very unlikely that the President, who is seeking reelection, will replace the incumbent Air Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto as the TNI commander due to security and strategic considerations.
If anything, replacement of the TNI commander looks like it will happen only after the new government is established. If a new president is elected, the nation will likely see a completely different scenario for the posts of TNI commander and chiefs of the Air Force, Army and Navy.
If Jokowi is reelected as president, it will then be up to him to decide whether he will retain Hadi as the TNI commander until the latter’s retirement in November 2021, or have another plan for Hadi.
In both scenarios, Andika seems to be in a great position to replace Hadi. If Jokowi decides to maintain Hadi’s TNI leadership until he retires in November 2021, Andika still has the opportunity to lead the TNI as he will only retire a year later. And if Jokowi decides to replace Hadi before his retirement day, the chances are even greater for Andika to replace him due to the aforementioned capacity, plus his ascribed advantage that eludes other candidates.
The only obstacle will derive from a stipulation in the 2004 TNI law that suggests rotating the post of TNI commander among the chiefs of the three branches of the military. If the President takes the advice, the next TNI commander should then come from the Navy.
Should Jokowi be reelected, he would very likely choose Andika as the next TNI commander. But if he takes harmony within the TNI into consideration, the next person at the TNI’s helm could be from the Navy.