17 November 2019

Indonesian president taps opposition rival, tech CEO for reform cabinet

KONFRONTASI-Indonesian President Joko Widodo asked opposition leader Prabowo Subianto on Monday to join his new cabinet for a second term, while the co-founder of tech start-up Gojek and a former chairman of Inter Milan soccer club were also tapped for posts.

Bringing on board Prabowo, who was Widodo’s challenger in April’s bitterly fought election, means the president can further strengthen his grip on parliament as he seeks to push through his reform agenda. The retired general’s Gerindra party has the third most seats in the lower house.

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.

Widodo had been expected to announce his full cabinet line-up on Monday, but this had been delayed until Wednesday, officials said.

“I want appointed ministers to be figures who are innovative, productive, as well as be hard and fast workers. Figures who are not stuck in monotonous routines,” Widodo said in a Twitter message.

A series of candidates visiting the presidential palace on Monday said Widodo had asked them to join the cabinet, but they declined to confirm the positions offered.

Prabowo, 68, said after meeting the president he had been asked to help in the defense sector. Media reports have suggested he would serve as defense minister.

His cabinet inclusion comes after he had initially refused to concede defeat in April’s vote, going to the constitutional court citing systematic fraud and abuse of power.

But after the court ruled against him the former special forces commander met Widodo on a number of occasions, including during a well-publicised ride on Jakarta’s new subway system.

Indonesian political parties tend to be divided more by the rival personalities at the helm rather than ideology, meaning they can more easily switch allegiances to get into power.

GOJEK CEO

Nadiem Makarim, 35, the chief executive of Indonesian ride-hailing and payments firm Gojek, was another visitor at the palace.

“I have received a big honor to be able to join the cabinet of the president,” Makarim told reporters.

He has been linked to a possible post in a new digital economy ministry or in education. Gojek said the company’s president Andre Soelistyo and its co-founder Kevin Aluwi would take over the leadership of the $10 billion unicorn.
Widodo’s election campaign manager Erick Thohir, 49, the chairman of media business Mahaka Media was also interviewed for a post, sending shares in his company up 19%.

Thohir, a former chairman of Italian soccer club Inter Milan who also has stakes in basketball teams, successfully led the team organizing the Asian Games hosted by Indonesia last year.

The billionaire businessman said he would step down from his company if appointed, noting the president had asked candidates to sign “an integrity pact” to avoid conflict of interests.

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