Opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, Gojek CEO Nadiem Makarim to join Indonesian President Jokowi's Cabinet

Indonesian opposition leader Prabowo Subianto (left) and Gojek co-founder Nadiem Makarim (right) will be joining Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s new Cabinet. PHOTOS: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Opposition leader Prabowo Subianto will join the new Cabinet of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, who defeated him in the last two bitterly-fought presidential elections.

Mr Prabowo, who heads the Gerindra party and ran against Mr Joko in 2014 and 2019, confirmed on Monday (Oct 21) that he had been asked by Mr Joko to join the Cabinet to help with the defence portfolio.

"We have been asked to strengthen the Cabinet and we are ready to help," he told reporters.

The former general would not say if he had been asked to become defence minister, as widely speculated in the media, but would only say that he had been asked to assist the president in the area of defence.

"I will work as hard as I can to meet his goals and expectations," he added.

The new Cabinet line-up will include ride-hailing firm Gojek co-founder Nadiem Makarim, who confirmed he had been offered a position following a meeting at the presidential palace in Jakarta on Monday.

The chief executive of Gojek told reporters after his meeting with the President that he has resigned from all positions at the ride-hailing firm.

"The President discussed with me about human resources, bureaucratic reform and efforts to boost investment," Mr Nadiem told reporters, without elaborating on the position he will be filling. The 35-year-old had previously been linked to a possible Cabinet post in a new digital economy ministry or in education.

The firm, valued at US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) confirmed the news in a statement, saying Gojek group president Andre Soelistyo and co-founder Kevin Aluwi are taking over as co-CEOs.

Mr Joko, popularly called Jokowi at home, hinted after his inauguration on Sunday that he would be introducing the members of his Cabinet the next day. But the media realised this meant seeing candidates turn up at the palace on Monday for interviews.

They were there in crisp white shirts, the trademark of Mr Joko, who dons a white shirt to signify he runs a government that works for the people.

Former constitutional chief Mahfud MD, who was at the palace on Monday, said the final line-up will only be known on Wednesday. Mr Mahfud said he was asked to join the Cabinet, to help improve law enforcement and human rights in Indonesia.

"The President discussed with me quite thoroughly about human rights, law enforcement... and cited a survey that revealed a weakening of law enforcement in Indonesia in the past year and said there was a need to work harder in this area," he said.

He added, however, that he was not told by the President which Cabinet position he would fill.

A palace presidential officer said Mr Joko is scheduled to meet and interview up to 15 candidates on Monday.

South Minahasa regent Christiany Eugenia Paruntu, a Golkar politician, was among the candidates who turned up before 10.30am local time.

Mr Airlangga Hartarto, who has been serving as industry minister and is chairman of the Golkar party, which has the second largest number of Parliament seats, also met with Mr Joko on Monday.

Mr Airlangga said that they discussed the country's trade numbers and the overall economy.

Another candidate who showed up at the presidential palace on Monday was Erick Thohir, a media tycoon and chairman of Mr Joko's re-election campaign team, who could potentially be the new trade minister.

Television veteran Wishnutama, who goes by one name, also turned up, and could be put in charge of innovation, arts and culture in the new Cabinet.

Mr Joko is expected to interview candidates who were proposed by political parties, as well as non-partisan technocrats and professionals he is considering for his team.

Indonesia adopts a presidential system, with Mr Joko as the chief executive. He has the prerogative to appoint ministers and replace any underperforming Cabinet member at any time during his five-year term in office.

But although the President has significant authority and powers as head of state and government, he can be hobbled by an active Parliament if he chooses to go against its wishes.

Analysts say that in filling Cabinet posts, the President has to balance political stability with competency when he selects candidates proposed by the political parties backing him.

They add that Mr Joko plans to avoid filling certain strategic posts with candidates affiliated with any political party.

These include the Attorney-General position and those overseeing law and human rights, state-owned enterprises as well as energy and mineral resources.

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