[Analytics] As more parties join Indonesia’s cabinet, Jokowi may recruit partisan professionals

Democratic Party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meets with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. (kompas.com/Ihsanuddin). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

With President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo hinting that former opposition political parties may join his Cabinet, concerns have been raised about whether he will maintain his plan to incorporate professional and non-partisan individuals. Democratic Party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meets with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Ghina Ghaliya specially for The Jakarta Post.

Jokowi met with chairmen of the Gerindra Party and the Democratic Party—two political parties that supported Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto in the April presidential election—last week, ahead of his second-term inauguration on Oct. 20.

While there has yet to be an official announcement about how many Cabinet seats will be allocated for the parties, if Jokowi really approves, there will be more political parties in his new Cabinet than his current one.

At the moment, Jokowi’s Cabinet consists of 34 ministers, 14 of whom are representatives of six parties in the ruling coalition. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) controls four seats, the largest number among other political parties.

As parties in the ruling coalition have called on the President to prioritize them in the upcoming Cabinet, there are concerns that the seats allocated for the Dems and Gerindra will come from the professional and non-partisan slots in his Cabinet.

Jokowi has said he wants more professionals in the Cabinet in his second term, or at least half of his Cabinet, but he is open to the possibility of recruiting professionals that are also members of political parties.

M. Qodari, a political expert from Jakarta-based pollster Indo Barometer, said Jokowi had more parties supporting him during the 2019 presidential election, including newcomers the United Indonesia Party (Perindo) and the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), making it a challenge for him to keep non-partisan slots in the Cabinet.

“Political parties can also submit professionals,” Qodari said.

Speculation is rife that Gerindra, which controls the third-most seats at the House of Representatives, is proposing three names for the Cabinet, including Sandiaga Uno, a businessman and former Jakarta deputy governor.

Members of the ruling coalition said that they would only accept Jokowi’s decision to welcome Gerindra and the Dems if Jokowi maintained the number of seats given to them.

“We gave 100 percent [to Jokowi]. He is aware of that but we would also 100 percent accept it if the President wants to reduce or give us additional seats,” said National Awakening Party (PKB) executive Jazilul Fawaid.

The PKB controls three seats in the current Cabinet but party member Imam Nahrawi recently resigned from the youth and sports minister post after being named a suspect in a corruption case.

The Golkar Party, which currently has three ministers, hopes the President will prioritize his supporting parties. “We are hoping for an increase [than the current Cabinet] because we have supported him from the beginning,” Golkar chairman Airlangga Hartarto said.

Golkar and Gerindra tied in the April legislative election, with each securing 12 percent of the vote. However, Golkar gained more seats in the House since it won in more electoral districts.

The NasDem Party also demanded that Jokowi prioritize the current members of the ruling coalition but also consider professional candidates from political parties.

“And the most important thing is to prioritize his supporters,” party executive Irma Suryani Chaniago said.

The PDI-P, although having demanded as many ministers as possible, stated that it would not be greedy and was confident that Jokowi would indeed prioritize his supporters.

“We understand that Indonesia must be built in collaboration with all of the nation’s elements,” party secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said.

The United Development Party (PPP), the smallest party in the coalition, is also open to inviting the opposition into the Cabinet. “We are not worried. Pak Jokowi will not leave the PPP, “Arsul Sani, the party’s secretary-general, said.

With pressure from the parties, the director of the Center for Political Studies at the University of Indonesia, Hurriyah, said a more partisan Cabinet could lead to problems in Jokowi’s second term.

“I’m rather pessimistic about the slots for non-partisan professionals in the Cabinet. They will eventually be given to political parties,” she said.

If that happens, she said, the impact is clear: a less effective government due to power relations and accommodative politics.

Indonesia Political Review executive director Ujang Komarudin said accepting the opposition into the coalition would weaken the independence of the government in issuing policies due to an absence of checks and balances.

“[We can] learn from the [Soeharto’s] New Order. There was no opposition party. Nobody controlled the government. The government could misuse power. Don’t bring the nation back to the New Order.”

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