Indonesia: Race heats up for next TNI commander

  • Speculation over the next Indonesian Military (TNI) commander to succeed Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, who will retire in Nov 21, has intensified, with lawmakers saying they expect President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to soon nominate his candidate of choice to the House of Representatives.
  • The 2004 TNI Law stipulates that its chief can be rotated among flag officers who hold or have held chief-of-staff positions within the three military services: the Army, the Air Force or the Navy. The 2004 law also mandates the President to seek the House’s approval before inaugurating the new TNI commander.
  • House Speaker Puan Maharani has emphasized that Jokowi had the “prerogative right” to nominate the next TNI commander.
  • It is likely to be a two-horse race between Army chief of staff Gen. Andika Perkasa and Navy chief of staff Adm. Yudo Margono.
  • Air Force chief of staff Air Chief Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo, meanwhile, has an outside chance of earning Jokowi’s nomination because of a post-New Order tradition that rotates the highest TNI position among the armed services.
  • The post-New Order convention was for the TNI chief to be rotated in an Army-Navy-Army-Air Force pattern, after the top post had been filled by Army generals for the entirety of former president Soeharto’s 32 years in power.
  • Jokowi broke the convention in 2015 when he nominated then-Army chief of staff Gatot Nurmantyo to succeed Moeldoko, who also came from the Army.
  • The 2024 election would likely cast a long shadow over Jokowi’s decision to nominate a particular candidate.
  • “Jokowi will rely on [the next TNI commander] being able to carry out operations to maintain political stability [in the period leading up to the 2024 elections] alongside the police,” said Andi, who is also an adviser to the Executive Office of the President (KSP).
  • “Normally, this would go to the Army as it has more depth in controlling territory.”
  • However, he pointed out that Andika would reach the mandatory retirement age of 58 years old at the end of 2022, meaning his service, if appointed by the President and approved by the House, would be shorter than that of Yudo, who is due to retire at the end of 2023.

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