Jokowi eyes young talent for Cabinet

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is set to lead a strong government with greater support from the House of Representatives.

JAKARTA • Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his intention to appoint young professionals to his next Cabinet, as he keeps reminding the nation about the potential of its young generation and the importance of adapting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Mr Joko, who won last month's presidential election, said he is eyeing young professionals and politicians for key positions in the next five years.

His campaign chairman Erick Thohir said the President needed young figures to support his focus on the development of human resources. "(Mr Joko) sees such figures as supporting his vision."

As the country awaits the outcome of a lawsuit lodged by rival candidate Prabowo Subianto against Mr Joko's electoral victory, political parties are lobbying the President for ministerial positions.

A number of names have been floated as options. One of these, recently suggested by Mr Joko himself, is the chairman of the Association of Young Indonesian Businessmen (HIPMI), Bahlil Lahadalia.

"The way I see it, Bahlil is suitable to be a minister. He has good social skills and is very smart," Mr Joko said when attending an event held by HIPMI in Jakarta on Sunday.

Mr Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, later asked the audience for their opinion on choosing the 42-year-old businessman as a minister, drawing cheers of support.

"(I want) a Cabinet that can work, that's why it is called the Working Cabinet. I've said it so many times, I need people who can execute programmes, who have good managerial skills," he said.

Mr Joko is set to lead a strong government with greater support from the House of Representatives, as the political parties backing him are projected to control about 60 per cent of the seats in the legislature.

During his first term, Mr Joko had to make compromises with parties in return for their support, as fewer factions had backed him initially.

Other young figures that have surfaced as potential candidates are Mr Erick, 48, and Indonesian Solidarity Party chairman Grace Natalie, 36.

Figures from the opposition camp - including Mr Sandiaga Uno, 49, a businessman-turned-politician who was Mr Prabowo's running mate in the election, and Mr Agus Harimurti, 40, the son of former president and Democratic Party patron Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - have also been touted for Cabinet positions.

But Mr Joko will first have to contend with the parties in his alliance.

National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar has handed Mr Joko a list of 20 PKB cadres and appears to expect at least 10 ministerial posts for PKB.

Mr Joko's own Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle has been lukewarm about the idea of a "young Cabinet". The party's secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said ministerial appointments should not be based on age but on capability, quality and readiness.

"We can't simply appoint a person. It's not only about the young age. A minister is a leader, thus he or she should really understand the ministerial duties and has to have leadership skills," Mr Hasto said.

Analyst Djayadi Hanan from Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting mentioned three criteria Mr Joko should consider for future ministers: technocratic competence, political skill and communication skill. "The challenge for Mr Joko is to accommodate the demands of all political parties in his coalition," he said, adding that Mr Joko should be firm and focus on his preferred criteria during discussions.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2019, with the headline Jokowi eyes young talent for Cabinet. Subscribe