On Jokowi’s Cabinet Reshuffle

The announcement of Jokowi’s new cabinet has elicited a fair amount of attention in Indonesia. This is the second time Jokowi harnesses his discretion to change the composition of his ministers. The first cabinet reshuffle was done in August 2015, less than a year after Jokowi holds office, wherein 6 new ministers were inaugurated. 4 out of 6 ministers were coming from economic portfolio, which in itself signaling the strong drift of the president to jump start Indonesian economy. The recent reshuffle was quite similar. At least 10 out of 13 ministries were from economic sectors. Some ministers were reassigned to new ministerial positions while some others were completely being sacked.

Nonetheless, I think the new emerging phenomenon from Jokowi’s presidency is his arousing awareness to widen public support for him. This awareness is less visible during his first year. For example, none of 4 ministers in the first round of reshuffle were coming from political background. They don’t have a strong social base either. They are, using a common term in Indonesian politics, technocrats or professionals. The term foreshadows the differentiation with other ministers from political parties background who, most of the time, have been less favorable in public eyes than the technocrats. While the rest of two ministers, Luhut Panjaitan and Pramono Anung, were high rank politicians that are indispensable if president Jokowi expects political support from parties.

Nonetheless, the second reshuffle signals that the president is now more willing to share power with his allies. Two parties, Golkar and PAN, have demonstrated their willingness to join cabinet. This leads them to ministerial-granting policy. Golkar’s cadre was elected as minister of industry and PAN’s cadre was being minister of bureaucratic reform. Aside from that, Wiranto, the chairman of Hanura party and a tainted, retired general with a bleak human rights record, was elected as coordinating minister of political, legal, and security affairs. And Enggartiasto Lukito from Nasdem party was to be trade minister.

The joining of Golkar and PAN has allowed Jokowi to reap remarkable support in parliament. By adding to PDIP, PPP, Nasdem, and Hanura, his coalition is now controlling 386 seats compared to opposition parties, which only pose 113 seats (excluding Democrat party which remains neutral).

Many people start jeering at Jokowi because of his decision. Indeed, at the beginning of his presidency, Jokowi was known for his unapologetic rhetoric for not “bagi-bagi kursi kekuasaan” (a power-sharing strategy in exchange of political support). This rhetoric doesn’t hold anymore. But people who jeer at him are missing the point.

The gripping political power is a bless for any politicians. In many occasions, this means having an unambiguous support from parties and mass-based organization. Jokowi seems to realize this when he has been about two years in power. For example, the rest of 3 ministers in current reshuffle were not from economic sectors. But they offer clear electorates for president. Wiranto is the chairman of Hanura; Asman Abnur is PAN member; and Muhajir, the minister of education, is a high rank official of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in Indonesia.

In Wiranto and Muhajir cases, their appointments spark controversies. Wiranto is a scandalous figure to be appointed amidst the government efforts to commence investigations over past human rights violations. He was deemed responsible during riots 1998 and the kidnapping of several activists when he was acting as the commander of the military. Whereas Muhajir’s appointment was less on his personal credibility. It is because he replaces Anies Baswedan, a clean and popular figure among Indonesians, especially the youth. I in fact happened to support Anies in 2014 presidential race. He sought a presidential nominee via the Democrat party’s convention. He failed at the convention, yet switching to take side on Jokowi thereafter. Jokowi appointed him as spokesman during his fierce campaign against Prabowo Subianto. After Jokowi won the election, Anies was chosen as minister of education. Indonesians greeted the appointment of Anies, partly because he has engaged in education issues in Indonesia, inter alia, as the founder of Indonesia Mengajar. But the president seems to eager to widen his public support by choosing Muhajir. This is not to say that Anies doesn’t have public legitimation. He does. But his “political price” is modest than Muhammadiyah, who hasn’t been instated in the cabinet yet.

The president has enjoyed strong bases more than ever. He has been stronger politically and socially. The complicated question now is, will he succeed?

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