Jokowi names Golkar man, ex-TNI chief to Cabinet

President Joko Widodo greeting the new Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham (far left) at the swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in Jakarta yesterday. With them are Mr Idrus' wife Ridho Ekasari and Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko.
President Joko Widodo greeting the new Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham (left) at the swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in Jakarta yesterday. With them are Mr Idrus' wife Ridho Ekasari and Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko.PHOTO: REUTERS

Appointments seen as tactical move ahead of Indonesian President's 2019 re-election bid

President Joko Widodo yesterday named another senior member of Indonesia's second-largest party to his Cabinet, replacing Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa with Golkar secretary-general Idrus Marham.

Also exiting the Cabinet is Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki, whose post was handed to former Indonesian armed forces (TNI) chief Moeldoko.

Mr Teten, 54, who was a key member of Mr Joko's election campaign team in 2014, is believed to be taking a break, while Ms Khofifah, 52, has resigned to contest this June's East Java gubernatorial election.

This is the third Cabinet shake-up in the President's five-year term which started in October 2014, and is seen as a tactical move that could help his re-election bid next year.

Mr Idrus, 55, is the third Golkar member to hold a ministerial position in Mr Joko's administration after Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan and Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto.

The reshuffle was widely expected following Ms Khofifah's resignation last week, weeks after Mr Airlangga took over as Golkar chairman on Dec 13. There was speculation that Mr Joko might replace Mr Airlangga due to his preference that ministers not hold positions outside of the administration.

But it appears the Golkar chief is here to stay, with analysts expecting this to be the President's last Cabinet reshuffle ahead of a busy election season, starting with June's regional elections.

Mr Idrus' appointment is seen as a move by Mr Joko to lock in support from Golkar for the President's bid for re-election next year, said analysts. Golkar holds 91 seats, or 16 per cent of the 560 seats in Parliament, and significantly boosted President Joko's position when it switched sides in early 2016 to join the ruling coalition led by the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P).

The re-emergence of Mr Moeldoko, 60, who retired as TNI chief in July 2015, came as a surprise to many yesterday. Once mentioned as a potential running mate of Mr Joko, he had kept a low profile until he was spotted at the wedding of Mr Joko's daughter Kahiyang Ayu last November, and made a speech on behalf of the President's family.

His appointment has reignited talk that the four-star general may yet again be in the running to be a candidate for vice-president.

Mr Moeldoko's credentials could be advantageous to Mr Joko, who has no military background, should the President be challenged in his re-election bid by Gerindra Party chief and retired three-star general Prabowo Subianto, his rival in the 2014 race.

Also sworn in yesterday were retired army general and former transportation and defence minister Agum Gumelar, 72, as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council; and Air Marshal Yuyu Sutisna as Air Force chief. Air Marshal Yuyu, 55, replaces Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto whom Mr Joko promoted to TNI chief in December last year, following the early retirement of General Gatot Nurmantyo.

While Gen Gatot had a prickly relationship with Mr Joko, Air Chief Marshal Hadi is a close ally of the President, whose recent key appointments indicate that he is seeking to strengthen his chances of a second term in office. Although Mr Joko ran on the PDI-P ticket, he is not a legacy member of the party and does not have its unconditional support for his policy objectives.

Experts like Professor Syamsuddin Haris from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences noted that with Mr Airlangga keeping his Cabinet post and Mr Idrus joining the team, Golkar's backing is all but guaranteed for Mr Joko. "This strategy will also increase the President's bargaining power with PDI-P," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2018, with the headline 'Jokowi names Golkar man, ex-TNI chief to Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe