Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has reportedly moved to select the new Indonesian Military (TNI) chief as the current commander, Gen. Andika Perkasa, will reach his retirement age of 58 on Dec. 21 and Jokowi does not seem to consider an extension of Andika's military service.
According to the TNI Law, the President will name a candidate for the TNI top post from all the four-star generals who have held chief of staff jobs in their respective military branches. This means Jokowi's choice will be limited to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dudung Abdurachman, Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Yudo Margono and Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Fadjar Prasetyo. Jokowi can add a new option if he appoints one of the chiefs of staff as deputy TNI chief, hence his replacement within the next two months.
Considering that Jokowi has never appointed his TNI chief from the Navy since he took office in 2014, many believe Yudo stands a greater chance of winning Jokowi's trust to replace Andika as TNI chief. An expert believes that giving the Navy a chance is important to maintain equality between the military branches.
Yudo is also believed to deserve a shot because of the Jokowi government's vision. Since the beginning of his administration, Jokowi has pledged to turn Indonesia into a world's maritime axis. Therefore, it is only logical to let the Navy chief hold the TNI top post this time around.
Yudo's main contender seems to be none other than Dudung. Many, however, believe Dudung has lost his chance after his rift with Andika was disclosed by House of Representatives member Effendi Simbolon earlier this month. A video showing Dudung mobilizing Army soldiers to bully and intimidate Effendi on social media circulated, shortly after the lawmaker's controversial statement.
Meanwhile, Effendi said if the presidential letter on the appointment of the new TNI chief reaches the House before it enters into recess on Oct. 4, chances are Yudo will most likely be nominated as TNI chief. Effendi dubbed this "Plan A". But if the President submits his letter after recess in December, hopes for both Yudo and Dudung to take over as the TNI chief will diminish because by that time they will have less than 10 months to serve in the military.
Effendi said President Jokowi might have a plan B, namely preparing a candidate outside the serving chiefs of staff to lead the TNI during a political year. Effendi said he had heard rumors of a "generational cut" in the military, in which the next TNI chief will be a high-ranking officer born after 1968. The speculation has remained unvalidated, but some observers have warned of politicization of the military if the "generational cut" occurs.
Talks of extending Andika's term in office have also circulated. House Commission I deputy chairman Abdul Kharis Almasyhari said this scenario is possible as long as it is proposed by the President. Then president Megawati Soekarnoputri and her successor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono respectively extended the tenure of then TNI chief Gen. Endriantono Sutarto's term. When he completed his term in 2006, Endriartono was 59 years old.
House Commission I would support this scenario but would have to wait for the President's request.
However, experts have insisted that the Endriantono case could not be used as a precedent because the current change of guard follows Articles 13 and 53 of the 2004 TNI Law where the matter of term extensions is not regulated. This matter is only possible if changes are made to the TNI Law.
Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court turned down a petition for judicial review filed against the TNI Law, which, if granted, would have increased the mandatory retirement age of all military personnel to 58 and allowed the President to extend the term of service of high-achieving officers. Andika was reported to have attended the hearing in person on Feb. 8 in an apparent show of support for the judicial review.
What we've heard
Several sources from the State Palace, high ranking TNI officers and members of House Commission I said that President Jokowi will choose Yudo as Andika's replacement.
One of the sources, who is close to Yudo, said actually President Jokowi had already chosen Yudo as the TNI chief replacing Hadi Tjahjanto at the end of 2021, but there were pressures from Andika's family on Jokowi to pick the then Army chief instead.
Another high-ranking officer in the presidential circle said that Jokowi was uncomfortable with the commotion caused by Dudung and Andika. The President reportedly sent State Secretary Pratikno to calm down Dudung and Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung to speak with PDI-P.
According to the same source, the President is considering removing Dudung from his current position. The plan was to place him as the head of the National Disaster Management Agency or the National Counterterrorism Agency. "The President is not happy because Dudung has locked horns with PDI-P," said the source.
Another source confirmed Jokowi's plan to replace Dudung. The source said another scenario of Dudung's removal will be promoting him to the deputy TNI chief post, which has remained vacant for more than two years.