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Indonesia cabinet unveiled, includes president's main rival

Indonesia president Joko Widodo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Jakarta, Indonesia Oct 23, 2019, 09.26 AM (IST)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled his cabinet for a second term on Wednesday, retaining former World Bank economist Sri Mulyani Indrawati as finance minister and tapping the leader of the opposition as he seeks to push through reforms.

The CEO and co-founder of ride-sharing and payments firm Gojek as well as a former chairman of Inter Milan soccer club were also named to the cabinet, confirming earlier reports.

The make-up of the cabinet was being closely watched to see how many technocrats - who are more likely to fall in with Widodo's plans for boosting growth and investment - were included. In the end, around half of his cabinet of 34 ministers were technocrats with the others having ties to political parties.

"First don't be corrupt, create a clean system. Second, no separate ministerial vision and mission, only the presidential vision and mission," Widodo said while seated on the steps of the palace flanked by his ministers.

Indonesia last month saw the biggest student demonstrations in decades opposing new bills that critics say undermine the fight against corruption and threaten basic rights.

Widodo picked former industry minister Airlangga Hartarto to head his economic team while confirming the reappointment of Indrawati as finance minister, who has now served in various administrations.

After meeting Widodo at the palace a day earlier, Indrawati said she had agreed to ensure policies supported the president's priorities such as improving human resources, creating jobs and executing government budgets well.

Prabowo Subianto, a controversial former general who was opposition leader in Widodo's first term and sole challenger in April's bitterly fought poll, will serve as defence minister, Widodo said.

"I don’t need to tell you about his role. He knows more than me," said Widodo, referring to Prabowo, who used to head the country's special forces and has been accused by human rights activists of abuses against civilians.

His cabinet inclusion is controversial for many supporters of Widodo as well. Prabowo had initially refused to concede defeat in April's vote, going to the constitutional court citing systematic fraud and abuse of power.

He was Widodo's main rival in the 2014 presidential election as well and had also challenged that result.

Political appointees

But after the court ruled against him this year he met Widodo on a number of occasions, including during a well-publicised ride together on Jakarta's new subway system.

With his entry into the cabinet, Widodo should now have the support of about 74% of the seats in parliament, including Prabowo's Gerindra Party.

Yose Rizal Damuri at Jakarta's Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the presence of political party representatives in the cabinet remained significant, and could hinder Widodo's reform campaign.

"Party representatives may have mandates from their own parties," he said noting that in Widodo's first term "everyone had their own agenda" in the cabinet.

Gojek CEO Nadiem Makarim was named education and culture minister.

Among other important economic posts, Arifin Tasrif, a former head of the state fertilizer maker, was named a minister of energy and mineral resources. Erick Thohir, a billionaire businessman who was chairman of Inter Milan and ran Widodo's re-election campaign, was allotted the minister of state-owned enterprises post.

The president's long-term ally Luhut Pandjaitan retained his role as coordinating minister for maritime affairs, which also oversees the natural resources sector and investment.

Pandjaitan, who spearheaded an acceleration of a nickel ore export ban this year, said on Tuesday Widodo had asked him to continue to expand mineral processing, improve investment in petrochemicals and cut "inefficiencies" in the state energy company Pertamina.

Story highlights

The CEO and co-founder of ride-sharing and payments firm Gojek as well as a former chairman of Inter Milan soccer club were also named to the cabinet.