Abri endorses Habibie as candidate

Indonesia’s vice-presidential election ————————————–

THE Indonesian armed forces (Abri) yesterday endorsed Research and Technology Minister B. J. Habibie as its vice-presidential candidate, making his appointment to the country’s No. 2 post almost a certainty.

Outgoing Abri chief Feisal Tanjung, who announced this at a press conference, also confirmed Abri’s support for President Suharto for a record seventh term in office.

With the military’s backing, Mr Suharto and Dr Habibie are now the only candidates for all five factions in the 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which meets next month to elect a president and his running mate.

Analysts said that Dr Habibie’s selection by the MPR was now guaranteed unless the President issues an order to appoint someone else – his constitutional prerogative when he is elected.

Gen Feisal said that Dr Habibie, a 61-year-old German-trained engineer and close confidant of Mr Suharto, was Abri’s choice because he was “the best man” for the position.

“We see him as the most appropriate figure to accompany our president to overcome the country’s problems and face the future challenges of development,” he said.

Gen Feisal, a close ally of Dr Habibie, refuted suggestions that his appointment would have an adverse impact on the market which has not been receptive of his nomination.

“There is no link at all,” he stressed, adding: “The problems we are facing are the result of activities of some groups out to destroy our nation.”

Responding to a reporter’s question, he also denied vehemently charges that Dr Habibie held dual citizenship of Indonesia and Germany, where he studied and worked for many years before returning.

“That is nonsense,” he said. “Don’t make things up.”

Flanked by newly-appointed military chief Wiranto, and other senior-ranking officers at the news conference, Gen Feisal maintained that Abri was not dictated by whether the vice-presidential candidate should be military or civilian, dismissing any notion it was split in its choice.

“Do not ever make such assumptions,” he said. “Abri is united in its position.”

Some of the younger generals are said to be upset with Dr Habibie’s efforts to wrest control of strategic industries and procurement decisions from them.

Sources said they are also uncomfortable with his alignment with Islamic groups like the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals’ Association (ICMI) of which he is the chairman.

Indeed, in the 1993 MPR session, the military fearing that Mr Suharto would appoint him as a running mate, circumvented that possibility by endorsing Gen Try Sutrisno, the current Vice-President, as its choice.

Gen Try said yesterday he did not want a second term in office. “I want to continue the tradition of one-term vice-presidents,” he told reporters in his office.

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