Jokowi Reshuffle Drops Reformers, Allows Politics

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s long-awaited cabinet reshuffle, presented today, July 27, shows the president accommodating more political interests into his chain of command. In all, 12 ministers are being moved or dropped and independent reformers are among those being shown the door.

The biggest, and probably most encouraging, name in the reshuffle is Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who is coming back for another turn as Finance Minister after being driven out of the position in 2010 by forces aligned with then-Golkar head Aburizal Bakrie.

Widely considered Indonesia’s most respected public servant at the time and an international star, Sri Mulyani joined the World Bank as deputy director after being forced out of the government of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She has served six years as the Bank's No. 2 and her return home, while welcome, was greeted as something of a surprise.

Jokowi, as the president is known, is said to have been seeking to woo her back for more than a year. She has refused until now. Advance rumors of the decision to bring her back drove the Jakarta Stock Exchange up by 1.16 percent to 5284.873.

Beyond Sri Mulyani, however, the reshuffle looks like earlier promises after Jokowi's 2014 election to run a professional government have largely been forgotten, with politics trumping reform. Several new names from former opposition political parties such as new industry minister Airlangga Hartarto from the Golkar party and Asman Abnur, named to the bureaucratic reform post, from the National Mandate Party (PAN) signal that this exercise is about traditional politics. It practically leaves the Gerindra party of Prabowo Subianto, which nominally controlled two-thirds of the House of Representatives following the 2014 presidential election, and the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) alone in the wilderness.

There are concerns among some business figures about the decision to move powerful Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan to the job of Coordinating Maritime Minister, replacing nationalist gadfly Rizal Ramli. Luhut, considered by some to be mercurial and ego-driven, takes over a position with enormous clout over the extractive industries, including oil, gas and coal, stirring fears that he will fashion the ministry, which produces most of Indonesia’s foreign exchange, into his own fief.

Popular and respected Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said, a reformer who kicked off a huge scandal last November with charges that Setya Novanto, the former House of Representatives Speaker, was attempting to shake down mining giant Freeport McMoRan, is out. He won praise from energy companies for trying to reform a traditional corrupt ministry. He was replaced by a little known businessman, Chandra Tahar, who is said to be close to Luhut.

Also gone are Anies Baswedan, the former education minister and a widely respected academician, and independent Transport Minister Ignasias Jonan, thus seeing three nonpolitical reformers dropped from the cabinet completely.

Another name that inspires little confidence is Wiranto, the 69-year-old former general accused by the UN of crimes against humanity in East Timor during the Indonesian occupation and who also played a murky role as commander of the Indonesian military from February 1998 to October 1999 during the tumultuous period when the strongman Suharto fell from power. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and for vice president in 2009. He was appointed Luhut's old job as Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law, and Security but is not considered to have a lot of clout.

The respected but somewhat ineffective Bambang Brodjonegoro, whom Sri Mulyani replaces as finance minister, will move to the National Development Planning Ministry (Bappenas), considered to be an important position.

The sour experience of being in opposition over the past two years has pushed Golkar, once Indonesia’s most influential political party, to vow allegiance to Jokowi. Not only has Golkar joined the ruling coalition, it has even extended its support to Jokowi for the 2019 presidential election.

Although its newly elected chairman is the same Setya Novanto accused by Sudirman Said and others of graft, it seems that having Golkar inside the tent is worth it to Jokowi to maintain cordial relations with the House.

Golkar, founded by Suharto more than half-a-century ago, had been split into two factions, led respectively by Aburizal Bakrie and Agung Laksono, following Bakrie’s insistence on keeping his leadership and opposing Jokowi’s administration after the 2014 presidential election. With Bakrie giving up the chairmanship recently, the party appears to have more flexibility.

If nothing else, Jokowi and his inner-circle, chiefly Luhut, who is a Golkar member, seem to have played Golkar to their own advantage, giving the president political support while his own party, the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) has been almost contemptuous of the president under its chairwoman, Megawati Sukarnoputri. The ruling coalition currently wields enormous power, having secured 69 percent of seats in the House of Representatives – up from 40 percent a year ago. Aside from Golkar, the coalition also recently received a boost from defecting opposition parties the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Development Party (PPP).

One of the big questions, however, remains Bakrie’s considerable influence in the party after ostensibly having left politics. His coal-to-communications empire was the focal point of Sri Mulyani’s failed attempt to clean up politics as finance minister under Yudhoyono.

Bakrie retaliated with a campaign to drive her from politics via charges, considered trumped up, of corruption in pouring money into a bail out of bankrupt Bank Century in late 2008 as the global financial crisis began. The finance ministry argued, to no avail, that allowing the bank to fail could undermine the Indonesian financial system.

In a letter made public following the announcement of her appointment, Sri Mulyani signaled that she has no intention of giving up, writing that “it is an honor to serve the president and my fellow Indonesians by continuing the ongoing reform program. I will dedicate all my efforts to accelerating Indonesia’s development agenda with the goal of providing more and better services, particularly to the poor, and ensuring that all citizens will be able to participate in the benefits of a thriving economy.”

The full list of new cabinet members:

  1. Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister

  2. Bambang Brodjonegoro, National Development Planning Board (Bappenas)

  3. Sofyan Djalil, Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister

  4. Thomas Trikasih Lembong, head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM)

  5. Wiranto, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister

  6. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Finance Minister

  7. Eko Putro Sandjoyo, Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister

  8. Budi Karya Sumadi, Transportation Minister

  9. Muhajir, Culture and Education Minister

  10. Enggartiasto Lukita, Trade Minister

  11. Airlangga Hartarto, Industry Minister

  12. Archandra Tahar, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister

  13. Asman Abnur, Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister