Jakarta – Monday's Cabinet reshuffle is unprecedented for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who typically chooses Wednesdays for the unveiling of strategic decisions.
It remains unclear if the inauguration of the new communications and information minister, five new deputy ministers and two new presidential advisers on Monday was intended to dampen public perception of the role of Javanese mysticism in Jokowi's policy making, but the reshuffle was certainly of great importance to him.
The Cabinet shake-up could perhaps be the last of Jokowi's administration, which will end in October of next year, unless he allows several of his ministers to resign in order to focus on their political ambitions in the February 2024 elections.
At least three of Jokowi's aides, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno, have already and received Jokowi's blessing to contest the presidential election. Several other ministers from various political parties have also been in the list of legislative candidates.
The Cabinet reshuffle on Monday came on the heels of the crucial phase of coalition building that can define the course of the presidential race, as well as the prospects of the national political landscape in post-Jokowi era. Jokowi would like his successor to preserve his legacies and realize what he has not achieved, which is why he intends to play the role of kingmaker.
The new political appointees sworn in on Monday are surely part of Jokowi's strategy. It is safe to say they are all the President's men, not only because they answer to him but also because their presence in the Cabinet will help him consolidate his power in dealing with other key players.
Although Jokowi wields power, he is not a political party leader, and the Constitution stipulates that only political parties can select presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Jokowi's choice of a successor may contradict the wishes of political party leaders, even those of the ruling coalition.
Jokowi is already at loggerheads with the NasDem Party, which has nominated former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan as its presidential hopeful. Jokowi has also reportedly been torn between Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo and Gerindra Party's Prabowo.
Jokowi has been sending mixed signals regarding the nomination of Ganjar and Prabowo, and deliberately keeps the confusion afloat, which has resulted in a war of words, especially in social media, between supporters of the two presumptive presidential candidates. Interestingly, both Ganjar and Prabowo have continued to display their proximity to the President to the public.
Jokowi named Budi Arie Setiadi, previously the deputy villages, disadvantaged regions and transmigration minister, the new communications and information minister, replacing Johnny G. Plate of the NasDem Party, who is now standing trial for his alleged involvement in the graft-ridden 4G telephony project, which investigators say has inflicted Rp 8.1 trillion (US$540 million) in losses to the state. Budi, who also chairs Jokowi's most influential group of supporters, ProJo, will be assisted by his deputy, Nezar Patria, a former editor-in-chief of The Jakarta Post.
Nezar was an expert staff member of the SOEs Ministry prior to his promotion to the deputy ministerial post. His jobs, according to Jokowi, include ensuring the country's data sovereignty in the era of artificial intelligence. Budi and Nezar will have to clean up the mess plaguing the ministry as a result of the corruption saga.
Jokowi also named Erick's other aide, Pahala Mansury, the new deputy foreign minister. Pahala's former post as deputy SOEs minister is now filled by Indonesia's former ambassador to the United States Rosan Roeslani. Rosan is said to fit the new job given that he led the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) from 2015 to 2021.
We wish the new officials luck and hope they help Jokowi realize promises he has yet to deliver on.