Indonesia's Joko Widodo adds Islamist party to reduce coalition's minority

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo strengthened his minority coalition by gaining support from a small Islamist party, but rivals remain in control of parliament and have pledged to obstruct his reform programme unless he makes concessions.

The incoming president, who takes office on Oct 20, hails from outside Indonesia's political elite and has refused to offer plum jobs for political support, giving rival parties little incentive to defect.

But, on Wednesday Widodo announced that the United Development Party (PPP), Indonesia's oldest Islamist party, had agreed to switch sides and would join the president-elect's cabinet.

The addition of the PPP's 39 seats will increase Widodo's backing in the 560-seat parliament to 44 percent from 37 percent previously.

PPP spokesman Emron Pangkapi said most of its members support Widodo, but have not made a formal decision due to internal disagreements.

"We're not expecting anything in return but we do maintain that as a party we want to be in the government, not outside it," Pangkapi said.

Concerns that the region's largest economy could face political gridlock for the next five years have pressured the rupiah and the stock market.

Opposition lawmakers, led by losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, won the top parliamentary jobs this month, allowing them to control the legislative agenda.

Widodo urged the opposition to work with his government to improve the condition of people in the region's most populous country.

"Our spirit after the presidential election should be the same - improve and fix our country and the welfare of our people," Widodo told reporters. "There should not be any spirit to obstruct. If you want to fight, we can fight five years later."