Jokowi's rocky ties with top party officials hit another bump

PDI-P elite unhappy over appointment of non-party figures to high-paying posts in state-owned enterprises

Indonesia's Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir (left) headed the campaign to re-elect President Joko Widodo last year. Mr Erick has been accused of failing to appoint PDI-P cadres to senior posts in his ministry, as promised by Mr Joko.
Indonesia's Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir (left) headed the campaign to re-elect President Joko Widodo last year. Mr Erick has been accused of failing to appoint PDI-P cadres to senior posts in his ministry, as promised by Mr Joko. PHOTOS: ST FILE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The mercurial relations between President Joko Widodo and the elites of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have again hit a low point - this time over the appointment of non-party figures to the notoriously high-paying senior management posts in numerous state-owned enterprises.

Party elites have taken to Twitter and WhatsApp to attack Mr Erick Thohir, who headed Mr Joko's reelection campaign team last year.

The 50-year-old media and sports tycoon, now Minister of State-Owned Enterprises, is not a party cadre but was widely credited for his success in organising the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

PDI-P leader Adian Napitupulu has been the most vocal in voicing disappointment over Mr Erick's appointment. He especially took issue with Mr Erick's failure to make good on his boss' promise to appoint supporters and PDI-P cadres to senior posts in state-owned enterprises and other strategic posts such as special staff to ministers.

The Sunday Times understands that Mr Adian submitted a list of about 30 candidates last October to State Secretary Pratikno, who then handed it over to Mr Erick. Mr Adian said none of his nominees were ever called in.

Rancour grew in PDI-P when Mr Erick gave several sought-after posts to former colleagues who helped him organise the Games, including someone from a political party outside the ruling coalition.

Top positions in state-owned companies in Indonesia have long been filled by both professionals and figures affiliated with the ruling party. Many of these corporate posts pay higher salaries than what Cabinet ministers get.

Mr Adian argued that the portion that goes to political parties should be reserved for the people who campaigned for Mr Joko in the last election, as these people who supported his ideas and visions would be in the best position to ensure all his programmes materialise.

The Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises' spokesman Arya Sinulingga told ST that input from various interest groups is welcome, but stressed that his boss has to take a professional stance when making appointments.

Agreeing, political observer Ali Nurdin of the Mathla'ul Anwar University said: "Every political party should let all its cadres who hold any position in the government be oriented with the people's and nation's interest, not be held hostage to the political party's interest."

The strained relations between Mr Joko and his party have also been revealed in the impending mayoral races in Solo, Central Java and in North Sumatra's Medan, with elections set for Dec 9.

COMMON GOOD

Every political party should let all its cadres who hold any position in the government be oriented with the people's and nation's interest, not be held hostage to the political party's interest.

POLITICAL OBSERVER ALI NURDIN OF THE MATHLA'UL ANWAR UNIVERSITY, on putting the interests of the people and nation ahead of the party's.

 
 

Mr Joko's son Gibran Rakabuming Raka and son-in-law Bobby Nasution are contesting in Solo and Medan, respectively.

Both have had a pledge of support from Mr Prabowo Subianto's Gerindra party, while PDI-P is yet to decide on which candidate it will be supporting in these two cities.

Mr Prabowo has been touted to run again in the 2024 presidential election and it is not impossible that he would contest against a candidate from PDI-P.

Political analyst Firman Manan of the University of Padjadjaran said the relations between Mr Joko and PDI-P have not always been smooth partly because the President - unlike many of his predecessors - has never held any strategic post within the party.

Mr Firman referred to a 2016 spat when then police general Budi Gunawan, a PDI-P proposed candidate for the national police chief post, was rejected by Mr Joko.

"On the surface, we are still seeing tensions, but eventually they will settle it. Last term, Jokowi rejected Budi Gunawan. Things turned ugly, but then they settled it and Budi Gunawan was appointed chief of Indonesia's intelligence unit," he said, referring to Mr Joko by his popular nickname.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2020, with the headline 'Jokowi's rocky ties with top party officials hit another bump'. Print Edition | Subscribe