On Wednesday, 17 January 2018, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) announced several names to be part of his government.He appointed Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Yuyu Sutisna as the new Air Force Commander since the position was vacant following the appointment of ACM Hadi Tjahjanto as TNI Commander in Chief. Jokowi appointed former Indonesian Military Commander in Chief Gen. (Ret.) Moeldoko as the new head of Presidential Staff Office (KSP) replacing Teten Masduki. The president also included Gen. (Ret.) Agum Gumelar as a new member of Presidential Advisory Council (Wantimpres). The appointment of Moeldoko and Agum increased the number of generals surrounding the president.There are seven retired military generals and three retired police generals within the cabinet.
Jokowi has surrounded himself with military generals since the start of his administration, with the most prominent one is Gen. (Ret.) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan who is the current Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs. This trend seems galvanizing the president’s dependency on the existence of those military men in his inner circle. On the one side, this dependency might weaken civilian control vis a vis the military. On the other side, this move could be seen as an attempt by the president to consolidate his power in regards of the upcoming 2019 General Elections. What does this latest showdown tell us? This article aims to elaborate possible game plan scenario of the president and the potential impacts of the recent appointments to the civil-military relations status in the country.
Several surveys have shown Mr. Joko Widodo as the frontrunner to win the 2019 Presidential Elections or to secure his second period. Nonetheless, the president still faces potential political challenges from opposition parties, particularly Great Indonesia Movement party (Gerindra) and Prosperous and Justice Party (PKS). Following their victory in Jakarta Governor Elections last year, the two parties, together with National Mandate party (PAN), have formed a coalition for five 2018 Governor Elections. The new born coalition shows an early hostile signal to the incumbent for the 2019. Furthermore, the chairwoman of Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Megawati Soekarno Putri has reiterated Jokowi’s position in the party as a petugas partai (party officer). In addition, the relation between the president and his party has not always been smooth. Jokowi thus might find himself facing challenges both from within and outside his party which may force him to find a way to balance those tests.
Using the military to achieve his objectives is nothing new for Jokowi, particularly to assist his infrastructure projects development. It also should be noted that bringing in military generals to inner circle has been done by after Reformasi Indonesian presidents. Megawati perceived the military as the better political ally compared to civilian political elites. During her presidency, she associated herself with security-first generals, such as Ryamizard Ryacudu who was the Army Commander at that time and is the current Minister of Defence.
Within this context, we could speculate that the latest reshuffle was intended to consolidate President Jokowi’s power base and secure a ticket for re-election in 2019. As a former panglima, Moeldoko’s credentials within the TNI should be remain influential. He might be unable to directly shape the military’s political orientation, but his ascendancy to KSP demonstrates Jokowi’s sensitivity upon the military’s corporate interests in which prestige and acknowledgement upon TNI’s managerial and leadership capability is vital for the institution. Jokowi interestingly did not opt for Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo for the position. Gatot had been showing a tendency of setting on his own stage whenever opportunities arise during his tenure as TNI Commander, particularly associating himself with Islamic hardliners.
Back to 2014, Moeldoko was known to have political ambitions running in election as vice-president candidate. Competing the ticket with much experienced civilian politicians, he seemed to be overwhelmed by the polemics over his extraordinary amount of wealth. Moeldoko then hold the TNI Commander in Chief post until his tenure ended in July 2015.Under the spotlight of recent reshuffle, we see how Moeldoko’s calculation on his chance in contentious battle of presidential election might has evolved throughout the years. Instead of pushing himself to the frontline of political battlefield, Moeldoko probably sees himself as supporter, or king maker at the very least, is more than enough to ground his foot in Indonesian political scene. Moeldoko also has a close relation with the current Chairman of People’s Conscience party (Hanura), Oesman Sapta Odang that might be utilized by Jokowi to cement the support from the party.
Having Moeldoko on his side, President Joko Widodo has more strategic leverage in managing his in-house affairs, including pushing the ministries to complete the government’s developmental agenda. After all, the TNI’s role as ‘agent of development,’ an exclusive title attributed to the military during the authoritarian period of New Order, finds its space to once again flourish during Moeldoko leadership. He signed various MoUs, for instances on education, transportation, and agriculture, that tremendously spurred the deployment of military personnel in non-defence sectors. Indeed, Moeldoko and President Joko Widodo share their views on the best to way to do ‘development.’
Having said that, the appointment of Moeldoko as head of Presidential Staff Office illuminates an interesting yet predictable development. In terms of civil-military relations, Jokowi has reinforced the already established pattern of civilian dependency upon the TNI establishment. Military support, including from the retired officers, remains a valuable currency in highly-competitive presidential election. Moreover, it is interesting to see how the interaction among generals will shape Joko Widodo presidency years ahead. Moeldoko is the youngest and has less political experiences compared to Luhut, Wiranto, Hendropriyono, and Sutiyoso. Now the question is: will the mobilization of generals translate into electoral victory for Jokowi in 2019? (Adhi Priamarizki And Muhamad Haripin)