Jakarta military can back civilian for V-P

THE Indonesian military has said that it would back a civilian for the post of Vice-President if necessary, dispelling any notion that it would support only a figure from the armed forces.

Lieutenant-General Yunus Yosfiah, the chief of socio-political affairs of the armed forces (Abri), stressed that the military did not differentiate between civilians and the military on this matter.

“It is wrong to assume that a military man must fill the vice-presidential position to maintain national stability,” newspaper reports yesterday quoted him as saying.

“Our candidate could be either a military or civilian figure. We will select him according to the criteria that have been set.”

His comments follow Golkar chairman Harmoko’s announcement earlier this month of a set of 14 criteria, endorsed by President Suharto, for the selection of the Vice President.

One important prerequisite was that the candidate must have a mastery of science, technology and industry.

Political observers here immediately zoomed in on State Minister for Research and Technology B.J. Habibie, a German-trained engineer and close confidant of Mr Suharto, as the strongest contender for the post.

This gained further credence over the weekend when Lt-Gen Yunus gave the clearest indication yet on who the military was backing for the Vice-President’s post.

“It can be Habibie or Pak Ginandjar,” he said during a talk at the Abri Staff and Command College in Bandung.

Mr Ginandjar Kartasasmita is the State Minister of National Development Planning.

Abri sources told The Sunday Times that there was support from different groups within the military for the two ministers as well as incumbent Vice-President Try Sutrisno.

A two-star Abri general said that Dr Habibie was “leading the race” because of his close links with Abri chief, General Feisal Tanjung.

Many analysts here said that Mr Suharto was intent on preventing a repeat of the 1993 election, when the military pre-empted him from selecting then Golkar chairman Sudharmono as Vice-President.

He had little choice then but to accept Abri’s candidate, Gen Try, for the post.

This seems less likely now, given that the military, the ruling Golkar party and the bureaucracy have agreed to name only one candidate for the vice-presidency, dispelling any notion that the three are divided over their choice.

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