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Four ways to look at Jokowi's new Cabinet

Four ways to look at Jokowi's new Cabinet
Published 27 Oct 2014   Follow @ConnellyAL

President Jokowi announced his first Cabinet on Sunday evening on the grounds of the State Palace, six days after his inauguration and four days after he scrubbed carefully orchestrated plans to unveil his selection of ministers at Jakarta's port. The initial announcement was delayed after Jokowi took the unusual step of submitting the names of his ministerial selections to Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and anti-money laundering agency for vetting. The agencies reported that eight candidates were suspected of involvement in criminal cases, forcing Jokowi to replace them and reconfigure his selections.

The delay was also extended by intense negotiations over posts between Jokowi and opposition parties, and between Jokowi and factions within his own party. The final list does not include any opposition figures, indicating that the standoff in the Indonesian legislature between Jokowi's minority Great Indonesia Coalition and the opposition Red-and-White Coalition is likely to continue. The lineup does, however, include a number of senior figures from Jokowi's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, an indication that the influence of party chair and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri remains particularly strong, even now that Jokowi has taken office.

Beyond that, I would suggest four questions to better understand the implications of the announcement.

First, who has Jokowi chosen to shepherd his signature policy initiatives, like maritime connectivity, expanded healthcare, and increased spending on infrastructure? For these posts, Jokowi has chosen little-known technocrats for ministries including maritime affairs, health, and transport. These businessmen and bureaucrats are said to have been personally chosen by Jokowi for their managerial abilities, to further those policies he cares the most about. 

Second, who is filling 'wet' positions (those known to be a source of political patronage) like energy, state-owned enterprises, and agriculture, and how does that square with Jokowi's campaign for cleaner government? [fold]

Jokowi is spreading the patronage around among his coalition, giving the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises to former trade and industry minister Rini Soemarno, a Megawati confidante; the Ministry of Agriculture went to a young businessman and acolyte of Vice President Jusuf Kalla. On the other hand, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the wettest of them all, went to a former state oil company official who was reportedly forced out in retaliation for his efforts to clean it up.  There are signs both of principle and compromise.

Third, who has taken the key economic portfolios? Here, Jokowi has continued the practice of appointing a trusted technocrat to the key finance portfolio while offering political supporters microeconomic portfolios like trade and industry. It is a dichotomy that soothes markets watching macroeconomic indicators for signs of weakness, but frustrates foreign investors who are made to navigate a complex maze of protectionist legislation and regulation.

Finally, who is filling positions where Jokowi is likely to take less of an interest, like foreign affairs and defence? These ministers are likely to have outsized influence, as Jokowi delegates to them in areas where he's shown less interest and feels less comfortable.

Retno Marsudi will become Indonesia's first female foreign minister, but is otherwise a fairly orthodox selection. Like former foreign minister Marty Natalegawa before her, she is a  graduate of the twelfth class of Indonesia's foreign ministry, a group of diplomats in their early 50s who were mentored by Hassan Wirajuda, Indonesia's foreign minister from 2001 to 2009. As a career diplomat, Retno is likely continue to pursue a foreign policy that emphasises non-aligned rhetoric while skewing slightly toward the West, managing the tension inherent in Indonesia's 'independent and active' foreign policy as most of her predecessors have.

Ryamizard Ryacudu, Jokowi's new defence minister, is more problematic. As Army chief of staff, he took a hardline stance on separatist movements, which made it more difficult to achieve the negotiated solution that ultimately ended the insurgency in Aceh. Human rights activists have noted that he defended Army human rights abuses during this time. He has strained relations with neighbouring countries like Australia and Singapore, and with  the US. Ryamizard is a Megawati loyalist whom she chose in the last weeks of her presidential term to become head of the Indonesian Armed Forces. The appointment was quashed by Megawati's successor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had quarrelled with Ryamizard over policy towards Aceh.

Notably absent from the roster is Luhut Panjaitan, a retired general and minister who remains the closest advisor to Jokowi with a military background. During the transition, Luhut seemed likely to become coordinating minister for politics, law, and security, a key position in liaising with foreign militaries and security services. Instead, a retired Navy chief of staff, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, will fill the role. Naming an admiral to the role is likely a nod in the direction of Jokowi's maritime emphasis, but is not unprecedented; under SBY the position was held by an admiral for five years.

Foreign Minister Retno is said to have less experience and clout with the military than colleagues in the diplomatic corps such as outgoing deputy foreign minister Dino Patti Djalal. Her appointment thus raises questions as to whether the foreign ministry can prevail when disagreements emerge between it and the military, as exists on the question of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In these situations, the military's voice might could become louder, leading to less clarity about specific Indonesian policies, as I have argued in a Lowy Institute analysis released earlier this month.

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