All Cabinet decisions will be made by me, says Jokowi

PRESIDENT-ELECT Joko Widodo will start putting together his Cabinet from mid-next month, and wants to have as professional a team as possible.

Being professional means they can be technocrats or members of political parties, so long as they are qualified for the job, he told The Straits Times.

But the final call on Cabinet appointments, as on key policy decisions, will be his, he stresses.

"We have a presidential system. I am the sole chief executive," he said.

Concerns have been raised that Mr Joko will face pressure from leaders of political parties backing him, not least the chairman of his Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, over seats in Cabinet.

Asked about this, Mr Joko says: "I have a lot of respect for Ibu Megawati and other senior party leaders, but all the decisions will be made by me."

The announcement of a new Cabinet is expected soon after he is sworn in on Oct 20.

Mr Joko's comments suggest he will also not be overshadowed by Vice-President-elect Jusuf Kalla, whose assertive style in the job from 2004 to 2009 saw him at odds with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Joko is also confident he can overcome concerns about not being able to please his political allies by having a good, transparent system to surface candidates, that includes a fit-and-proper test and a check on their track records.

Post-Suharto Cabinets have seen big compromises made to accommodate key political party leaders in the administration in exchange for continued support in Parliament, but Mr Joko and observers fear this has been to the detriment of good policymaking.

Questions remain over how independent the new administration will be from party interests.

A transition team Mr Joko formed to identify priorities for the new administration and how to restructure his Cabinet is headed by Ms Megawati's confidante, former trade and industry minister Rini Soemarno, and two of its four deputies, Mr Hasto Kristiyanto and Mr Akbar Faizal, are party figures. But he has also roped in two academics who were key to his campaign, Dr Andi Widjajanto and Dr Anies Baswedan.

But at a meeting with volunteers on Wednesday, Mr Joko also invited attendees to join his transition team and make sure their concerns are aired. Groups of volunteers have also surfaced a list of names for Cabinet positions and asked netizens to have their say.

"That's good," Mr Joko said. "I have options."