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Indonesia's New Cabinet Gets Mixed Reaction


Indonesian President Joko Widodo shakes hands with members of his new cabinet after they were unveiled at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Oct. 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo shakes hands with members of his new cabinet after they were unveiled at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Oct. 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

Since the beginning of his political career, Joko Widodo has worked hard to separate himself from Indonesia’s political leadership. Observers say they saw this quality in him even when he served as mayor of a small town. In his first week as Indonesian president, Mr. Widodo has sought to build on to this political identity.

Corruption is a serious issue in the country. In an unusual move, the president asked the country’s anti-corruption agency to investigate nominees to his cabinet. That process led to delays and resulted in the removal of eight ministerial candidates.

Thirty-four ministers in Mr. Widodo’s “working cabinet” were announced on Sunday. A few hours later, they were sworn-in at ceremonies in the official home of the president. The ministers promised to follow the law and reject bribes – unlawful attempts to influence their judgment.

The cabinet includes technical experts, business people and a few others credited with being reformers. Keith Loveard is with Concorde Consulting, a company that advises businesses. He describes the cabinet appointments as a “wait and see” cabinet.

“The tone of the cabinet, certainly there are some elite members there and there are some people with questionable human rights backgrounds, as one would expect in Indonesia. But there is also this new blood as it were, a new spirit of entrepreneurial talent,” he said.

The cabinet has several business leaders who are unproven in government. They include Susi Pudjiastuti, who owns an airline company.

Joko Widodo has promised to reform government agencies and target an economic growth rate of seven percent.

A number of observers have praised the nomination of Pratikno as State Secretary. He has served as the rector, or head, of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. The president chose the rector at Paramadina University, Anies Baswedan, as the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education.

Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi has been named foreign minister. She is the first Indonesian woman to hold the position. A career diplomat, she formerly served as ambassador to the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway. She is one of eight women in the new administration.

But observers have criticized the number of political appointments to the cabinet. They were especially unhappy with appointments of people close to former President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Siti Zuhro is with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. She says the cabinet appointments show that Mr. Widodo is not completely independent.

“I think there is no question about the role of Madame Megawati Sukarnoputri, that she played an important role in appointing and recruiting the candidates,” he said.

Throughout his political campaign, Mr. Widodo has said he would not trade ministerial positions for political support.

Yet a small number of leaders in his party have been given cabinet positions. They include the former president’s daughter, Puan Mahrani, who will direct four coordinating ministries, and former general Ryamizard Ryacudu as defense minister. Critics say he has a questionable human rights record.

Observers say these appointments are a sign of the new president’s common sense, but weaken his effort to create excitement about the new government.

Of 34 ministers in the new cabinet, 21 are either connected to a party or linked to top party officials.

I’m Mario Ritter.

This report was based on a story from reporter Kate Lamb in Jakarta. George Grow wrote it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

career - n. a chosen profession; a person’s working life

president - n. the chief official of a country that is a republic; the leader of an organization

corruption - n. actions taken to gain money or power that are legally or morally wrong

minister - n. a member of a cabinet; a high government official; ministerialadj., relating to a government minister or his office

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