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Indonesia's President Drops Police Chief Candidate

FILE - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, shown at an ASEAN summit meeting last year in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.

FILE - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, shown at an ASEAN summit meeting last year in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he has decided to revoke the nomination of Budi Gunawam as national police chief, after the candidate was named a suspect in a corruption scandal.

Last month, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Gunawan a suspect in a bribery case, forcing Widodo to delay his appointment.

“Commissioner General Budi Gunawan’s candidacy as [chief of police] has created different opinions in the society," Widodo said Wednesday at a news conference in Jakarta. Therefore, to "focus on the needs of the Indonesian police force to be led immediately by a definitive chief of police ... today, we put forward a new candidate to parliament for approval,” interim police chief Badrodin Haiti.

The president, widely known as Jokowi, said he is also suspending two members of the nation's anti-corruption commission, known as the KPK, who became the subject of police investigations after they named Gunawan a corruption suspect.


“Because of the legal issue against two KPK officers, Abraham Samad and Bambang Widjojanto, and a vacancy in KPK leadership, in accordance with the existing law, I am issuing a presidential decree on the suspension of the two KPK officials," Widodo said Wednesday.

Constitutional expert Refly Harun told VOA the president has full authority to revoke the nomination of Gunawan, although he may face challenges in parliament, especially from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).

Harun said, “Perhaps, there is already an agreement among the political parties in parliament in naming a new candidate. Meanwhile, the only party that seems to be inflexible is the PDIP. Maybe PDIP feels they badly wanted Budi Gunawan to be chief of police because of his closeness to the party."

Indonesian Corruption Watch analyst Emerson Yuntho said he is pleased with the president’s decision on Gunawan but is disappointed with the suspension of the KPK commissioners.

Yuntho said the move "indirectly legitimizes the criminalization process of two KPK officials."

Widodo, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, took the unusual step of having almost all of his high-ranking appointees vetted by the KPK. But one exception was Gunawan, whom the KPK named a corruption suspect for taking gifts as the chief of police human resources from 2003 to 2006.


The investigation was ruled illegal earlier this week by a judge who said the KPK overstepped its authority.

Widodo, the popular former governor of the capital, Jakarta, narrowly won a July election with a promise to voters to bringing clean, effective government.

But a survey published by a local pollster this month showed just 45 percent of Indonesians were satisfied with his performance, down sharply from 72 percent in August, according to Reuters.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service. Some material for this report came from Reuters.