President-Elect Jokowi Calls on Public to Pick Cabinet

People's Power — In an unprecedented move, Joko Widodo has asked Indonesians to help him put together a new government

Joko Widodo, center, and Jusuf Kalla, second from left, with PDI-P  head Megawati Sukarnoputri, second from right, and Puan Maharani on July 22, 2014.  (Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

Joko Widodo, center, and Jusuf Kalla, second from left, with PDI-P
head Megawati Sukarnoputri, second from right, and Puan Maharani on July 22, 2014. 
(Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

Jakarta. President-elect Joko Widodo has again come up with an innovative idea; one that is unheard of in the history of Indonesian politics. Indonesia’s future leader is asking the public to add its two cents in filling out his cabinet, and in the process, revealing the potential nominees.

Jokowi Center, a team of volunteers helping Joko gather suggestions and examine candidates for his cabinet lineup, launched a poll on its website jokowicenter.com on Thursday, allowing Indonesians nationwide to cast their votes for names provided by the site, or nominate their own favorites.

More than 18,000 online participants raced to the site as of Thursday evening, causing it to crash less than 24 hours after its official launch.

The Center’s Facebook page and Twitter account — @Jokowi_Ina — also provided a link to a Google document inviting citizens to fill out a similar questionnaire.

A total of 102 names have been nominated for 34 ministerial posts, with each position receiving three candidates. If respondents remain unsatisfied with the suggestions, they may nominate their own choice with the “other” option.

“I’m only asking for input [to create] the cabinet,” Joko commented about the online poll on Thursday. “[The suggestions] will be processed by a team, using a set of criteria. Then, [the results] will be sent to coalition members, before being sent back to the [Jokowi Center] team.

“The final decision will be on me.”

The Jakarta governor has repeatedly stated he was against the practice of transactional politics and will not trade political support for a seat in his government.

The unprecedented move could account for the relatively small size of his coalition — compared to opponent Prabowo Subianto’s massive campaign machine — which will control a mere 37 percent of legislative seats when the new set of lawmakers go into session on Oct. 1.

Compare that with the rival bloc of former Army general Prabowo, which will control 73 percent of the House seats if the coalition does not fall apart — as many observers have predicted.

Joko has also vehemently rejected allegations claiming he will merely act as a “puppet president” to Megawati Soekarnoputri, the chairwoman of his political vehicle, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

“I truly respect Megawati as my senior. But surely good governance should come from making the right decisions and what is best for our nation,” Joko said in an interview a day before the General Elections Commission (KPU) declared him and running mate Jusuf Kalla the winners of the July 9 presidential race on Tuesday.

Still, it’s impossible not to notice that at least 30 names on Jokowi Center’s list of cabinet nominees are party members — and most of those are from the PDI-P.

Take for example Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter, who is tipped as an heir apparent to the PDI-P throne. The 40-year-old is a candidate for the position of women’s empowerment minister.

Meanwhile, senior PDI-P politicians Maruarar Sirait and Pramono Anung are both nominated for state secretary. Similarly, Hendrawan Supratikno has been suggested for the post of finance minister and Arif Budimanta for energy minister.

Politicians from other parties within the PDI-P-led coalition, including National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar, National Democrat Party (Nasdem) deputy chairman Ferry Mursyidan Baldan and Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI) chairman Sutiyoso, are also on the list. They are — in respective order — nominated for the chief welfare minister, the communication minister and the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

Interestingly, a number of figures from parties in the rival camp have also been nominated, including popular Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil of Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and Lukman Hakim Saifudin of the United Development Party (PPP). They are candidates for the public housing minister and religious affairs minister, respectively.

More notable additions to the list include movie directors Garin Nugroho and Mira Lesmana as the tourism and creative industry minister.

The nomination of noted composer Addie M. S. and Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan as the youth and sports minister, meanwhile, have managed to raised eyebrows — with neither known to have any experience in the area. Anies has in fact been widely expected as Indonesia’s next education minister, but he’s strangely not among the Jokowi Center nominees for the job.

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Is the right man in the right place?

Bantarto Bandoro, a political, defense and international relations expert from the Indonesia Defense University (Unhan), expressed his opinion on several candidates on Friday.

According to Bantarto, Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko and former Army chief of staff Gen. Budiman were both capable of holding the chief political and security minister position, but noted that Budiman’s recent dismissal — the reason of which remains unclear —  would not set a positive precedence for Joko’s future cabinet.

“Would Joko promote Budiman though he was ‘dismissed’ from the Army?” Bantarto questioned.

“The coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs is a managerial position; it doesn’t require technical skills. Moeldoko will be the best man for the job. He’s familiar with latest security issues, including those that will remain [Indonesia’s concerns] over the next five years,” Bantarto said.

Former chief of the Jakarta military command Sutiyoso, meanwhile, has been absent from Indonesia’s political arena since the end of his term as Jakarta’s governor in 2007, which means he may face difficulties readjusting to another government post, Bantaro added.

For defense minister, he pointed to one of his former students at the University of Indonesia (UI), Andi Widjajanto — who is now a lecturer at the university— as the best man for the job. Andi, along with senior PDI-P lawmaker T. B. Hasanuddin and former Army chief of staff Ryamizard Ryacudu, are three nominees for the job.

It helps that Andi is a core member of Joko’s campaign team and has been directly involved in outlining the ticket’s defense and foreign policy platform.

“Andi has an advantage over the other two [candidates]. His academic, scientific-based approaches will introduce logics in Indonesia’s defense policies and help them develop,” Bantarto said. “He’s young, but has good expertise.”

Meanwhile, Hasanuddin, a member the House’s defense commission, has admittedly been following every development of Indonesia’s defense sector and has provided the government with ample criticism on the matter.

“But his arguments often lack theoretical, scientific and practical grounds and therefore offer no real solutions to the matter at hand,” Bantarto commented.

Finally, he pointed out that the appointment of Ryamizard — a known close aide to Megawati — would contradict Indonesia’s stance on appointing a civilian for the defense minister position. The policy was introduced at the start of the post-Suharto reformation era and was meant to curb military involvement and dominance in the government.

As for the role of foreign minister, Bantarto champions Indonesia’s current international public relations man Marty Natalegawa, as he is expected to continue the country’s ongoing diplomatic missions — which most of Indonesia’s foreign observers say are cruising in the right direction.

“Additionally, there would be almost zero resistance against him within the diplomatic ranks. The same may not be said for public figures who have currently no connections to the foreign ministry, such as UI lecturer Makmur Keliat or Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS] executive director Rizal Sukma,” Bantarto said. “Rizal has some great, sharp foreign policy concepts, but he would meet resistance in the diplomatic ranks as he’s never been part of them.”

The economic team

Eric Alexander Sugandi, an economist at Standard Chartered, gave his comments on the appointment of Indonesia’s future economic ministers.

However, Eric refused to take sides and name his favorite choice for chief of Indonesia’s economy, the nominees for which include incumbent minister Chairul Tanjung, who has only held the title for several months, gaining the position after stepping in for current Prabowo running mate Hatta Rajasa; State Enterprise Minister Dahlan Iskan; and former trade minister Gita Wirjawan.

“Ideally, the coordinating minister for the economy position should go to a senior minister, experienced enough to be able to smoothly coordinate with other economic ministers. And ideally, the person must also be able to work with regional administrations,” Eric said.

For the post of finance minister, Eric favors former minister Agus Martowardojo — who held the role from 2010 to 2013 — but highly doubts that Agus would want to leave his current position as Bank Indonesia governor.

“Raden Pardede gained ample experience with the KSSK, the [now-defunct] Financial System Stability Committee,” Eric said. “But other names from the finance ministry’s inner circle should be considered as well.”

These would include deputy finance minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, former deputy finance minister Mahendra Siregar — who is now chief of the Investment Coordinating Board, or BKPM — and tax director general Fuad Rahmany.

Eric added that Mari Elka Pangestu, trade minister from 2004 to 2011 and current nominee, would still be fit for the job, citing her vast experience in the sector.

“Basically, aside from having specific skills in their specific areas, ministers for the economy should also possess macroeconomic knowledge, experience in policy making and the ability to build relations with other state institutions, including the House of Representatives, Bank Indonesia and the OJK [Financial Services Authority].

“Candidates should also be in favor of administrative reform,” Eric added.

Corruption free?

Meanwhile, the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) offered its input by highlighting the track records of names added to Jokowi Center’s online list, some of which have already raised a red flag within the antigraft organization.

ICW coordinator Ade Irawan refused to go into detail, but conceded that Rokhmin Dahuri, the maritime and fisheries minister under Megawati’s 2001-04 presidency, had once been convicted of corruption and abusing his power.

Rokhmin was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in 2007 for illegally collecting up to Rp 11.5 billion ($1 million) from various government programs. His sentence was cut short due to good behavior.

Raden may also prove to be a problematic candidate due to KSSK’s involvement in the Bank Century bailout scandal, which is currently being tried at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court. However, the former KSSK secretary has only testified as a witness in the case.

“The candidates’ list should be free from people implicated or suspected in corruption cases and potential conflicts of interest,” Ade said. “Jokowi-JK should clearly outline the criteria required for each candidate… so the public would not make their choice simply based on popularity.”

Ade conceded Joko’s attempts to draw public participation in selecting cabinet members “deserves appreciation.”

“It is important that people are involved in choosing the officials who will ultimately serve them,” Ade said. “This strategy would also hopefully prevent any transactional, horse-trading politics from happening.”

The ICW is currently drawing up its own list of pros and cons on Jokowi Center’s existing list of candidates.

That report, added Ade, will be released in August.

The ICW coordinator added that the organization supported the idea of cutting down on bureaucracy by closing several ministries that are deemed ineffective, though he declined to name them.

Additional reporting by SP/Deti Mega P.

  • gyorotonic

    I for one think Anies Baswedan will do a fantastic job as Education & Culture Minister, he actually gives hope for the future of education in this country .— Teachers are the guardians of our future as a nation & they need to raise their game for all our sakes. — Teachers need all the support we can give – they need to be fully empowered – but then they need to be accountable.

  • lost-and-found

    I’d go for dissolving the religious affairs ministry. There is no need for religion in politics. Time and time again it has proven useless although in saying that, the recently appointed minister does seem to be changing that. Still, it is not required to run the country. It’s a personal thing.

    • myview

      Absolutely!

  • GlobalCitizen

    Why some old farts are included as candidates. Jokowi talked a lot about revolution of mentality but how would that be accomplished when the actors are still the old farts from the era gone by.

  • myview

    I couldn’t agree more. The government needs to slim down – on all levels. More than the waste of money the problems created by rivalry and overlapping authority could better be kept at bay. Since your argument makes perfect sense, Bang Koja, I suppose you have the best intentions when you write about the decentralization and empowering of local governments. I would call for caution on this – although it would be a move in the right direction. The problem I see is that we are currently facing the problem that the way the idea of regional autonomy is being executed went a bit astray. I don’t think the lawmakers had the creation of regional kings in mind. This needs to be corrected. On a personal note I would like to add that the new government should as soon as possible close the ‘lembaga sensor’ as such an institution is by default undemocratic. Only the courts should be able to decide whether or not something is lawful.