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Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (born September 9, 1949), Indonesian military commander and politician, is the current President of Indonesia. Susilo won the presidency in September 2004 in the second round of the Indonesian presidential election, in which he defeated incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri. He was sworn into office on 20 October 2004. (Javanese do not have surnames in the western sense. While in the Indonesian Army Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was known as Yudhoyono, and this seems to be his preferred usage. He is referred to in some media as Susilo and is widely known in Indonesia as SBY.)

Yudhoyono was born in Pacitan, East Java, the son of an army officer. He graduated from the Indonesian Military Academy in 1973, and is married to the daughter of another army officer. In 1975 he took part in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and had several tours of duty there since. Like other Indonesian officers involved in the occupation of East Timor, he has been accused of war crimes, but has never been charged with any specific act. He was seen as a protege of the former Armed Forces chief, General Wiranto, who was also a presidential candidate, but has now severed that connection.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
In the 1980s Yudhoyono studied in the U.S., gaining an MA in business management from Webster University. He was Indonesia's Chief Military Observer in Bosnia in 1995-96. He later held territorial commands in Jakarta and in southern Sumatra. He was appointed Chief of the Armed Forces Social and Political Affairs Staff (Kassospol Abri) in 1997, and was known in the media as "the thinking general." He retired from active service on April 1, 2000. He received a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Bogor Institute of Agriculture in October 2004.

Yudhoyono was appointed Minister for Mines in the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid in 2000. He was soon promoted to the key position of Minister for Security and Political Affairs. One of his tasks was to get the army out of politics. "Since 1998, the Indonesian military has decided to stay out of day-to-day politics," he said at that time. "The basic idea of military reform is to go back to the role and function of the military as a defense force and move them away from politics systematically. The trend is moving in such a way that there is no so-called 'dual function' of the military, there is no so-called social political mission in the military."

Given Wahid's physical (and, it was said, mental) incapacity, Yudhoyono was seen as the dominant figure in the Wahid government. In 2001 Wahid, who was facing impeachment, asked Yudhoyono to declare a state of emergency to shore up his position against the Parliament. Yudhoyono refused to accept this, and Wahid dismissed him. This gave him a new reputation for liberalism.

Yudhoyono was almost immediately re-appointed to his post by the new President, Megawati Sukarnoputri. After the October 2002 Bali bombing, he oversaw the hunt for and arrest of those responsible, and gained a reputation both in Indonesia and abroad as one of the few Indonesian politicians serious about the war on terrorism. His speech during the one year anniversary of the Bali's attack was praised by the Australian media and public. In March 2004 he resigned, reportedly after a falling-out with Megawati and her husband. The timing of his resignation was widely seen as linked to his decision to run for president.

Yudhoyono's reputation for integrity and his polished television skills made him the front-runner throughtout the election campaign, according to all opinion polls and the opinions of election commentators, a long way ahead of Megawati, Wiranto and the other two candidates, Amien Rais and Hamzah Haz. He picked up much of the support base that gained Megawati's party the largest share of the vote at the 2000 elections.

Like most Indonesian political candidates, Yudhoyono articulated no real policies. He told an interviewer: "If we are to reduce poverty, create jobs, increase purchasing power and rebuild infrastructure, then we will need new capital. Of course, to be able to invite investment, I have to improve the climate - legal certainties, political stability, law and order, sound tax policies, customs policies, good labor management. I will improve the guarantees to encourage investors to come to Indonesia." He offered no specifics on how these things would be achieved, but neither did any of his rivals.

Last revised on December 01, 2009
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