JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s surprise move to invite his political rival and a young, successful entrepreneur to be part of the Cabinet signalled his determination in combating radicalism and improving education, analysts said.
The line-up unveiled on Wednesday (Oct 23) included former general Mr Prabowo Subianto, who challenged Mr Jokowi in the past two elections, as defence minister, and Gojek co-founder Mr Nadiem Makarim as education minister.
The Cabinet is formed to deliver the president’s priorities, observed Mr Edbert Gani, political economist from Jakarta-based think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
"The president chose a Cabinet that he could control, with some professional figures placed at the top," he said. More than half of the 38 officials are from professional background.
In his first presidential speech on Sunday at the start of his second term in office, Mr Widodo has outlined the key focus of his administration in the next five years - improving human resources, enhancing infrastructure, simplifying regulations and bureaucracy, and transforming the economy.
The ministers are facing tough challenges ahead, analysts said, as public confidence in Mr Widodo has declined due to a slew of issues such as the deadly riots in West Papua, the proposed amendments to the criminal code and the forest and land fires.
Mr Widodo told the ministers on Wednesday that they should not harbour their own agendas.
They must champion the visions and missions of the president and vice president, he added, and steer clear of corruption.
“Everyone has to work seriously. Those who don’t work seriously, I can fire them midway,” he warned.
FROM RIVALS TO COLLEAGUES
Radicalism is a serious problem in Muslim-majority Indonesia and it appeared to be a huge concern of Mr Widodo, noted Mr Gani.
Indonesia has seen a string of terror attacks in recent years, and two weeks ago, now-former security minister Wiranto was stabbed by a terrorist.
Mr Widodo’s two-time presidential rival Mr Subianto is expected to tackle these challenges as he has expertise in the field of defence and radicalism.
One of his tasks would be anticipating threats, including radical ideologies.
Mr Gani warned that Mr Jokowi’s loyal supporters would be disappointed with the appointment of Mr Subianto to the important portfolio.
“The question remains whether it would undermine political stability,” he said.
During the election campaign, Mr Subianto was backed by Muslim hardliners.
There were allegations linking him to human rights abuses during the dictatorship of former president Soeharto. He was formerly married to Mr Soeharto’s daughter.
Mr Subianto is also believed to be blacklisted by the United States, but terrorism and intelligence expert Mr Riyanta believed that the US would take realistic steps in dealing with Indonesia.
“It doesn’t want to intervene too much (in Indonesia’s politic), or else China might move in and take advantage of the situation,” he told CNA.
READ: Indonesia's Widodo faces test on reform credentials in second term
Mr Subianto's appointment aside, the analysts also noted that the religion and home affair portfolios were also given to candidates with military and police background.
Retired general Fachrul Razi was assigned the religion portfolio, while Mr Tito Karnavian, who until recently was the country’s police chief, would head the home affairs ministry.
Mr Stanislau Riyanta, terrorism and intelligence expert from the University of Indonesia, said Mr Karnavian's expertise in the field of radicalism and terrorism could come in handy to curb the trend of civil servants becoming radicalised.
Nonetheless, these appointments alarmed human rights activists and civil society groups, Mr Gani noted, adding that they fear freedom of opinion would be compromised.
"The security approach in the composition of the Cabinet feels thick," he said.
FROM START-UP TO BUREAUCRACY
While the appointment of Gojek co-founder Mr Makarim, 35, is touted as a right move towards technology adaptation and human resource development, analysts warned that the Harvard-educated innovator may struggle with bureaucracy.
“I believe Nadiem Makarim will bring along his innovative ideas, but being a minister need more than just great ideas and execution.
“The ability to manage bureaucracy is his homework,” political analyst Mr Yunarto Wijaya from think-tank Charta Politika told CNA.
Mr Gani from CSIS concurred, adding that the work culture in the private sector, especially in a start-up like Gojek, is not the same as working in the government.
“There is a bureaucratic chain that he must face, an example being changing the mindsets of teachers who have been used to certain ways for years,” he opined.
Mr Makariem, who also co-founded Zalora Indonesia, told reporters that his strength lied in innovation.
“With more than 300,000 schools and 50 million students, like it or not, technology will play a very important role in the quality, efficiency and administration of the education system in Indonesia, which is the fourth largest country in the world,” he said.
The youngest minister in the new Cabinet later added that he would spend the first 100 days “listening and learning”.
RELIABLE OLD FACES
Mr Widodo can rely on his hardworking Public Work Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, who has pulled off infrastructure projects in the archipelagic nation in his first term, to continue enhancing connectivity.
The reappointment of former World Bank managing-director Mdm Sri Mulyani Indrawati as Finance Minister is also applauded as a right choice to advance Indonesia’s economy in the face of a global slowdown.
“Putting her back into the government is the right decision amid the challenges of the recession,” said Mr Gani, the political economist.
However, Mr Widodo’s vision to cut bureaucracy, through reducing unnecessary positions, is not an easy task, said Mr Agus Pambagio from think-tank PH & H Public Policy Interest Group.
“It is impossible to cut staff because people have worked hard and this will be very time-consuming. This will create chaos,” the public policy expert said.