“More Concern than Celebration: Jokowi’s Second Cabinet Reshuffle”, a Commentary by Ulla Fionna

Commentary 2016/37, 29 July 2016
Jokowi’s announcement of his second cabinet reshuffle (27/07) calls for more caution than celebration. While the return of Sri Muyani Indrawati is a welcome selection, other appointments should be viewed with more care. Overall, it seems that the reshuffle is Jokowi’s strategic move to consolidate his position among his supporters.

Sri Mulyani is back. Forbes’ 23rd strongest woman in the world in 2008 and Euromoney’s Best Finance Minister 2006, recorded solid results as finance minister under SBY. Her comeback at the helm of the Ministry of Finance after a high-profile appointment at the World Bank is viewed with much optimism. Her alleged involvement in a high-profile bank bailout case aside, her presence and skills should provide a boost to the state’s economy.
Yet, other selections are concerning. Notably, the appointment of Wiranto as coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister. Himself and his Hanura Party being long supporters of Jokowi, Wiranto is also well-known for his alleged involvement/compliance in the May 1998 riots and for other human rights violations in East Timor. The magnitude of this selection is also crucial as he replaced Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan – Jokowi’s right-hand man. His appointment raises a lot of concern over whether he would command the same influence as Luhut. Luhut himself has been given another powerful position as Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs. While it looks like a demotion, this appointment signals Jokowi’s commitment and seriousness in beefing and speeding up initiatives in this strategic area – which was his most prominent election promise.
Party politics and transactional appointments are also at play with the appointments of Golkar Party’s Airlangga Hartarto as Industry Minister, and The National Mandate Party (PAN) Asman Abnur as Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister. Both parties have the crossed the floor recently and their ‘rewards’ were indeed expected. Most surprising are the appointments of new ministers of Energy and Mineral Resources (Archandra Tahar), Transportation (Budi Karya Sumadi), and Education and Culture (Muhajir Effendi). These three new Ministerial appointees replaced ministers, Sudirman Said, Ignasius Jonan, and Anies Baswedan, whose performance were perceived positively.

Three observations can be made from this reshuffle. First, Jokowi’s decision to keep Puan Maharani (Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Megawati’s daughter) should be questioned. Puan has not performed well in her position and it is her familial connection that has kept her safe. Second, the new cabinet represents an effort to consolidate Jokowi’s support. As such it is indeed a strategic move on his part to have his sources of support such as Wiranto, well-rewarded. Third, the economy and maritime seem to be top of his agenda, signalled by the high-profile appointments of Sri Mulyani and Luhut this round. We may see some much-needed boost in these areas as a quick result of this reshuffle.
Ulla Fionna is Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

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