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Analysis: Cabinet shake-up poised to strengthen Prabowo's coalition

Jakarta Post - February 26, 2024

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – With less than eight months left in office, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo changed his cabinet team once again to welcome Democratic Party leader Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono on board as agrarian and spatial planning minister, replacing Hadi Tjahjanto, a long-time Jokowi ally who was promoted to the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister post.

By including Agus in the cabinet lineup, President Jokowi has virtually rewarded the Democratic Party for joining the alliance supporting presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is Jokowi's eldest son.

Previously, the Democrats positioned themselves among the opposition by backing Anies Baswedan's presidential bid in hopes that Agus would run with Anies as his vice-presidential candidate. However, Anies preferred National Awakening Party (PKB) leader Muhaimin "Cak Imin" Iskandar over Agus, prompting the Democrats to shift to the Prabowo-led alliance.

Jokowi's latest maneuver came as no surprise given that he hosted former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), Agus' father, last October in the Bogor Palace. Following that meeting, rumors circulated that Agus would join the cabinet sometime in November.

During the inauguration ceremony at the State Palace on Wednesday, Jokowi claimed that he would serve as a bridge among the country's many political parties. Agus' entry into the cabinet certainly gives the impression that Jokowi is looking to further consolidate the parties in Prabowo's alliance and strengthen their ties to the President.

Moreover, Jokowi may also be taking on the key role of expanding Prabowo's political party alliance ahead of the incoming administration after having met with NasDem Party chairman Surya Paloh on Feb. 18. NasDem was the first political party to rally behind opposition figurehead Anies despite being part of the government coalition, a move that eventually cost the party two NasDem ministers in the Cabinet, namely former communications minister Johnny G. Plate and former agricultural minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo, who both exited the cabinet due to their involvement in graft cases.

According to Poltracking Indonesia executive director Hanta Yuda, Jokowi is strategically using divide and conquer in an attempt to break up the alliance supporting the Anies-Muhaimin ticket.

The substitution in the cabinet came only a week after the simultaneous presidential and legislative elections, which saw Prabowo take an unassailable lead with about 57-58 percent of the vote, according to the General Elections Commission (KPU) latest quick count updated on Wednesday morning.

Based on the preliminary vote count, the Prabowo administration will fall short of legislative support to govern effectively. His alliance will control about 45 percent of the House of Representative seats, which is why NasDem's jumping ship, if it happens, will be most welcome.

What's more

Agus was appointed agrarian and spatial planning minister, a post previously occupied by Hadi, Jokowi's military commander from 2017 to 2021. Hadi was appointed the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister to replace Mahfud MD who resigned from the post to prioritize his vice presidential bid alongside the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) presidential candidate, Ganjar Pranowo.

Hadi's close relationship with Jokowi has been reflected in the number of times he has been appointed to strategic positions throughout Jokowi's presidency. In January 2017, he was named the Air Force chief and at the end of that year was promoted to commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI). In Jokowi's second term, Hadi was appointed agrarian and spatial planning minister in June 2022 to replace Sofyan Djalil, who is known as a close ally of former vice president Jusuf Kalla.

According to Jokowi, Hadi's experience as TNI commander makes him well-equipped to handle issues related to politics, law and security. However, Hadi's promotion also reinforces the notion that Jokowi is allowing the TNI to gain greater ground in civilian affairs, especially when retired officers in strategic government positions will be able to shape public discourse and policy.

Hadi is the second former Air Force chief-cum-TNI commander to hold the chief security ministerial post after Djoko Suyanto, who served during the presidency of SBY.

What we've heard

A source said Agus first received news about his appointment as minister from State Secretary Pratikno on Monday, Feb. 19. Pratikno requested Agus to meet with President Jokowi where it was confirmed that he would be named agrarian and spatial planning minister. "The President asked the Democrats to join the government [coalition]," said the source.

Agus then met with Prabowo and spoke with National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Zulkifli Hasan and Golkar chairman Airlangga Hartarto and informed them of Jokowi's offer for the Democrats to join the cabinet. A Democrat politician said Prabowo helped nudge the Democrats into Jokowi's cabinet to express his appreciation for the party's efforts to support the Prabowo-Gibran ticket.

According to the same source, Agus' ministerial post serves as a bridge between the party and Prabowo's incoming administration in October 2024. "There are talks that several posts have been reserved for the Democrats," the source added.

The Democrats' entry into the government coalition has prolonged the strained ties between Jokowi and the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Several PDI-P ministers, such as Yasonna Laoly, Risma Triharini and Bintang Puspayoga, did not turn up to witness Agus' inauguration. A source from the PDI-P claimed that the party had never approved of the Democrats joining the government coalition from the beginning.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/02/26/analysis-cabinet-shake-up-poised-to-strengthen-prabowos-coalition.htm