The presidential election is still far away, but at least five military generals — mostly retired but still influential — have come forward as potential candidates to replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2014.
Political analysts say that the emergence of these military patrons on the democratic stage is a loud confirmation of political parties’ failure to groom civilian leaders to run for top office.
Those yet to be officially nominated as presidential candidates include chairman of the House of Regional Representatives (DPD) Irman Gusman; chairman of the Constitutional Court Mahfud MD; and former coordinating minister of the economy Rizal Ramli.
Irman has reportedly been approached by the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), which wants to pair him with chief of the Army’s Strategic Command Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto. Irman is also being supported by the extended family of the military through its Communication Forum for Children of Retired Police and Military Officers, or FKPPI.
The ruling Democratic Party is preparing at least two candidates for the post — Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto, and Army Commander Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo.
The People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) is determined to send former military commander and coordinating minister for politics and security Gen. (ret) Wiranto. Hanura chairman Yuddy Chrisnandy said that Wiranto is the right man to replace Yudhoyono because of his statesmanship.
Gerindra is determined to nominate former commander of the Army’s elite force Kopassus and Prabowo, whose popularity is rising fast these days and has performed well in several opinion polls.
A fifth military patron ready to contest presidential election is former commander of the military Gen. (ret) Endriartono Sutarto who resurfaced only recently when he joined National Democrat (NasDem) Party and announced his readiness to join the race.
Of these five military patrons, only Wiranto and Djoko have occupied ministerial positions. Wiranto was commander in chief of the military during the transition from Suharto to Habibie and served as coordinating minister for politics and security during the reign of president Abdurrahman Wahid.
Whether these retired generals can be acceptable to voters remains to be seen. But according to presidential election law, any of them must be supported by a political party or coalition of parties that wins 25 percent of the popular vote in a legislative election or controls 20 percent of legislative seats.
By law Yudhonoyo may only serve two consecutive terms as president.