Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – President Joko Widodo on Monday appointed a loyalist, Mr Budi Arie Setiadi, as Indonesia's new communications and information minister in a Cabinet reshuffle ahead of the 2024 General Election.
Mr Budi – previously deputy minister in the Villages, Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration Ministry – heads Projo, a volunteer organisation that has backed Mr Widodo since 2014. He replaces former communications minister Johnny G. Plate, who is standing trial for corruption.
"The corruption case should not stand in the way of our effort to build BTS, or base transceiver stations (towers that connect mobile devices to the Internet network) across Indonesia because this is public service, especially to Indonesians living in frontier and least-developed regions," Mr Widodo told reporters after announcing the Cabinet reshuffle on Monday morning.
The reshuffle includes the appointments of several deputy ministers and is widely seen as a move by the President to install his supporters in the administration before the general election in February.
President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, is not eligible to stand for re-election as his mandated two terms will come to an end in 2024.
Mr Widodo has had increasing disagreements with party elites from his ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) as the election draws near, according to Jakarta-based political analysts such as Dr Djayadi Hanan, who was a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, and Mr Adi Prayitno of UIN Syarif Hidayatullah university.
Filling Mr Budi's old post is Professor Paiman Raharjo, rector of the Prof Dr Moestopo Beragama University in Jakarta, who is also an adviser in a state-owned gas company. Prof Paiman leads Relawan Sedulur Jokowi, another volunteer organisation that backs Mr Widodo.
Former banker Pahala Mansury was appointed deputy foreign minister. He has left his previous job as deputy state-owned enterprises minister.
Mr Rosan Roeslani, Indonesian Ambassador to the US, is filling Mr Pahala's old post. Mr Rosan is a long-time friend of State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, widely touted to be a vice-presidential candidate in the 2024 General Election.
Mr Rosan previously advised Mr Erick on growing his family business. Mr Erick was a main donor to Mr Widodo's campaigns in 2014 and 2019.
The local media has reported that Mr Erick, 53, is a possible running mate to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, the defence minister, who is also chairman of the Gerindra party.
Mr Prabowo, 72, will most likely face his two strongest rivals in the Feb 14, 2024, election – Mr Ganjar Pranowo, 54, fielded by PDI-P, and Mr Anies Baswedan, 54, an opposition figure and former Jakarta governor.
Electability surveys and popularity polls over the past year have indicated that Indonesia will most likely have a three-way presidential election, because other presidential hopefuls have consistently scored far below these top three leaders.
Meanwhile, Mr Nezar Patria, an aide to Mr Erick, was appointed deputy communications and information minister. Mr Nezar has a background in journalism – he is a co-founder of Jakarta-based news portal viva.co.id and was an editor at The Jakarta Post.
Mr Widodo also appointed Indonesia's Ambassador to South Korea Gandi Sulistiyanto as a member of the presidential advisory board. Local media previously reported that Mr Gandi's family is in partnership with Mr Widodo's sons in several businesses operating in the food sector, among other industries.
The corruption case implicating former minister Plate centres around projects to deploy BTS mostly in remote areas in Indonesia, for which prosecutors alleged there was an eight trillion rupiah (S$704.5 million) cost mark-up.
"For the sake of people's welfare, the President wants us to move on with the project while the corruption prosecution continues," Mr Budi told reporters after the Cabinet announcement.