President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo congratulates Gen. Andika Perkasa after inaugurating him as Army chief of staff at the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro)

Jokowi Appoints Son-in-Law of Key Ally as Army Chief of Staff

BY :JOY MUCHTAR & IMAN RAHMAN CAHYADI

NOVEMBER 23, 2018

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo inaugurated Gen. Andika Perkasa as new Army chief of staff at the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Thursday.

The former special forces battalion commander is the son-in-law of A.M. Hendropriyono, former chief of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and current chairman of the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI). Hendropriyono served under Megawati Sukarno Putri – Jokowi's main backer – and remained her close adviser after leaving the post.

His party, which barely passed the legal requirement to compete in next year's legislative election, has also announced its support for Jokowi's re-election bid.

Still, Andika who is replacing Gen. Mulyono, who has retired, said he would strive to keep the Army out of politics.

"If people want to say anything, go ahead. I don't have to comment on unnecessary things. Everything has been decided by the president and I don't know what was included in his assessment," he said.

Andika has several academic accomplishments, having earned a master's of science degree and a doctorate from Harvard University in Massachusetts. He was the best graduate of the Army Command Staff School in 2000.

Andika, who will turn 54 next month, worked his way up from a rookie second lieutenant to becoming a lieutenant general over a span of 31 years, a normal period to reach such a senior position in the armed forces.

He started his career by joining the Special Forces Command (Kopassus) as a platoon commander. This was the first of many leadership roles he has taken since graduating from the infantry branch of the Military Academy in 1987.

He had a short stint as commander of the Presidential Guard, or Paspampres, in 2014, while his most recent position was as commander of the Army Strategic Command (Kostrad), which he occupied for only four months.

Susaningtyas N.H. Kertapati, a military and intelligence observer and member of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura), said Andika faces a challenge to maintain the Army's neutrality in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections in April next year.

Members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police do not have voting rights, but play a key role in securing political campaigns and polling stations across the country.

Susaningtyas said the upcoming elections are causing sharp divisions between Jokowi's supporters and those of his rival, Prabowo Subianto, and that these could easily escalate into open conflict.

"This must be anticipated in advance. The parties that can prevent and overcome this are the police and the armed forces," she said.

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