Lenny Tristia Tambun, Jakarta – National Mandate Party (PAN) Chairman Zulkifli Hasan was appointed as the new trade minister in a surprise cabinet shakeup on Wednesday that also saw the return of former military chief Hadi Tjahjanto to public office.
Zulkifli, once considered an opposing figure to the current government, takes over the job from Muhammad Lutfi.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo also installed Hadi as the new agrarian and spatial planning minister replacing Sofyan Djalil.
Zulkifli's arrival in the cabinet broadens the scope of the pro-government coalition which currently controls a vast majority of seats in the House of Representatives.
But Jokowi insisted that the appointment of the two new ministers was nothing political.
"We consider their track record, vast experience, and managerial skill," the president said after the ceremony.
Zulkifli is the fourth political party leader to join the cabinet after Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party chairman Prabowo Subianto who serves as the defense minister, Golkar Party Chairman Airlangga Hartarto who is also the coordinating minister for the economy, and United Development Party Chairman Suharso Monoarfa who serves as the national development planning minister.
Just before the swearing-in ceremony, the president hosted a meeting with the leaders of pro-government parties including Zulkifli, Prabowo, Airlangga, Suharso, National Democratic Party Chairman Surya Paloh, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) Chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, and National Awakening Party (PKB) Chairman Muhaimin Iskandar.
The top-level gathering took place at the newly-built "presidential lounge" inside the State Palace.
"We discussed political consolidation to tackle global challenges in the energy and food sectors," Airlangga said.
"We are facing difficult challenges in many sectors and it requires political stability to cope with those challenges," he added.
The first meeting ever at the presidential lounge was also meant to welcome Zulkifli to the cabinet, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said.
The president also installed three ministerial deputies including Afriansyah Noor as the deputy for the manpower minister, Raja Juli Antoni as the deputy for the agrarian minister, and John Wempi Wetipo as the deputy for the home affairs minister.