Workers take part in a rally in Jakarta on Feb 6 to protest against Indonesian President Joko Widodo's decision of putting forward Budi Gunawan, a three-star police general, as his sole pick for police chief. (AFP photo)
JAKARTA — Indonesia's president is soon expected to drop his choice for national police chief who is under investigation for corruption, two palace officials said, in the biggest political test for the new leader since taking office in October.
Joko Widodo's decision to nominate Budi Gunawan, under investigation by the anti-graft agency, was met with public outrage and has threatened the president's popularity.
This photo taken on Jan 14 shows Budi Gunawan, a politically-connected three-star police general with a murky financial record, during a hearing with lawmakers in Jakarta. (AFP photo)
Two palace sources, who were present at private meetings where Mr Widodo announced he would drop Mr Gunawan as his nominee, told Reuters the president was considering other candidates for police chief.
"Budi Mr 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.
Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto told reporters on Thursday the president could make an announcement on his police chief pick this week.
Mr Widodo's nomination of Mr Gunawan was widely seen as a political manoeuvre to appease the chief of his backing party, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to whom Mr Gunawan is close. The move once again raised concerns that the president, a newcomer on the national stage, remained indebted to powerful vested interests.
Analysts say dropping Mr Gunawan would help dispel that image and restore some of Mr Widodo's popularity.
"What this shows is that Jokowi is the result of demand-driven movement for change rather than put in place by certain people," said Jakarta-based political analyst Paul Rowland, 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 official with Mr Widodo's backing party PDI-P said the decision to drop Mr Gunawan would be a "bump in the road" for his relationship with political patron Ms 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," said the party insider, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Megawati and Jokowi need each other, she understands that," the party official added.