Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has dropped his controversial pick for National Police chief, sources at the State Palace and the House of Representatives said on Friday.
Joko’s decision to nominate Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, who has since been named a bribery suspect by the national antigraft agency, has been met with public outrage.
The president’s month-long dithering over the appointment has severely eroded his popularity and left many Indonesians questioning his readiness to take on powerful vested interests in a country riven with corruption.
Two palace sources, who were present at private meetings where Joko announced his decision to drop Budi Gunawan as his nominee, told Reuters that interim police chief Badrodin Haiti and police generals Dwi Priyatno and Budi Waseso were being considered as replacements.
“Budi Gunawan will not be police chief, the president has already decided,” said one senior palace official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Desmond J. Mahesa, deputy chairman of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said he had also heard of such a plan.
According to Desmond, Joko told House Speaker Setya Novanto over the phone on Thursday evening that he had decided not to inaugurate Budi Gunawan.
Setya could not be reached for comment but his deputy Fahri Hamzah said Joko only wanted the House speaker to weigh in on his options.
The president on Friday refused to comment on the reports, saying that he was still considering all his options.
Joko, who has delayed Budi Gunawan’s inauguration since the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him a suspect, has earlier said he would announce his decision this week.
“Soon,” he said at the Bogor Palace on Friday. “I will make an official statement as soon as possible, but not now. There needs to be calculations related to politics, law. Everything has to be taken into consideration.”
Analysts said Joko could spark massive public outrage if he proceeds with Budi Gunawan’s inauguration, but scrapping the decision would also cause a political backlash, including from Joko’s own Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
The PDI-P has been a strong supporter of Budi Gunawan, who once served as a security aide for PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri during her presidency.
Although party leaders have said they would support whatever decision the president makes, lawmakers at the House continue to press Joko to inaugurate Budi Gunawan.
Golkar politician Bambang Soesatyo said the president risks severing ties with the legislature, which has unanimously supported Budi’s nomination despite his status as a graft suspect.
“If the president is really considering a new [police chief candidate] he will be in contempt of parliament,” Bambang said. He went on the threaten to reject any new candidates the president might propose.
Budi Gunawan’s lawyer Razman Arif Nasution meanwhile indicated that he would also oppose a presidential decision not to proceed with his client’s inauguration.
“We will challenge it in the PTUN,” the lawyer said, referring to the State Administrative Affairs Court, which has authority to hear cases against a government policy or decision.
Joko’s perceived reluctance to anger the chief of his backing party, Megawati, to whom Budi Gunawan is close, has chipped away at his poll ratings.
A survey published by a local pollster this month showed just 45 percent of Indonesians were satisfied with Joko’s performance, down from 72 percent in August just after he was elected.
Analysts said backtracking on Budi Gunawan’s nomination would restore some of that support.
“What this shows is that Jokowi is the result of a demand-driven movement for change rather than put in place by certain people,” Jakarta-based political analyst Paul Rowland said, using the president’s nickname.
“People are willing to call him out on things they don’t agree with and ultimately he needs that backing to go ahead with reforms.”
One PDI-P official said the decision to drop Budi Gunawan would just be a “bump in the road” for his relationship with Megawati.
“Thanks to Jokowi, Megawati now has a party in power after years in opposition but they still don’t control the majority in parliament, so they can’t go about imposing their will on everyone,” the party insider said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Megawati and Jokowi need each other, she understands that.”
The post Jokowi Said to Have Already Decided to Drop Budi as Police Chief appeared first on The Jakarta Globe.