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    Oct 27, 2014

    Jokowi's Cabinet a mix of technocrats & politicians


    NEW Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo unveiled his Cabinet yesterday, including the country's first female foreign minister, after a lengthy delay caused by the anti-corruption authorities' concerns about several candidates.

    Among key figures are Retno Marsudi as Foreign Minister, Bambang Brodjonegoro as Finance Minister and Sofyan Djalil as Chief Economics Minister. The new Cabinet has eight women, a higher number than in the previous one.

    The 34-member Cabinet is broadly split between professionals and party politicians, as Mr Joko seeks to balance a pledge to pick the best people in their fields and pressure to reward parties who backed him.

    The team of ministers will be key in helping Mr Joko push through much-needed reforms to boost South-east Asia's top economy and help the country's poorest, as he faces stiff opposition in Parliament from a coalition that backed his election rival.

    The daughter of Megawati Sukarnoputri, the head of Mr Joko's party, and other figures close to her were named as ministers, which will add to concerns that the former president may seek to influence policy from outside government.

    The announcement was expected as early as last Tuesday, a day after Mr Joko was inaugurated as leader of the world's third-biggest democracy. But he took the unprecedented step of asking the powerful Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to vet the candidates. He was seeking to avoid the mistakes of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose government was hit by a string of corruption scandals that dented its popularity.

    "We wanted the chosen people to be clean so we consulted the KPK," Mr Joko, 53, said, as he announced the Cabinet.

    The agency raised concerns about eight prospective ministers, forcing the new President - Indonesia's first leader from outside the political and military elite - to scramble for replacements.

    Since the downfall of former president Suharto in 1998 after three decades in power, it has been common practice in Indonesian politics for prospective leaders to promise Cabinet posts to allies in exchange for support.

    Mr Joko pledged to eschew backroom deal-making in a bid to usher in a clean new government after beating former general Prabowo Subianto in the election. But pressure in recent weeks prompted him to make a concession, and he agreed to give out about half the jobs to allies.

    Most prominently, Puan Maharani, the daughter of Ms Megawati, was named head of one of four powerful "coordinating ministries", which oversee several other ministries. She is heading the ministry for culture and human development.

    A close Megawati confidante, Rini Soemarno, was named State-owned Enterprises Minister, while another figure close to her, former army chief of staff Ryamizard Ryacudu, was selected as Defence Minister.