In a few hours, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will announce his cabinet. Despite promises for an early announcement, the pressure surrounding him to make his dream team is immense and hence, the delay. The end product, based on the various versions of the list of names being spread around, is beginning to look more of a product of compromise rather than a product of someone who can make his own decisions.
President Jokowi’s greatest strength is in his ability to communicate and gain the trust (and votes) of the common people. At the same time, however, this may irk the elites that are still clinging on to power. Shaping his cabinet seems to be the work of accommodating the interests of those who put him into power in the first place.
The quality of my doodle and handwriting aside, I would like to point out that we have a very popular President backed by an army of volunteers who would be willing to be mobilized at his will (but erratic and uncontrollable at times). However, President Jokowi has to manage the interests of Ibu Megawati and PDIP, his Vice President Jusuf Kalla (I’m observing that he is an autonomous political actor who does not stand entirely with the President and a veteran political operator himself), the Indonesia Hebat coalition (with Surya Paloh, Wiranto, etc) and the opposition, the Merah Putih coalition (with Prabowo, Aburizal Bakrie, etc) who is already giving the President a challenging landscape in the parliament. Military actors are operating as well in each of these camps (not as an institution ever since the erasure of “dwifungsi” by de jure), with the Islamists split between the two coalitions, the moderates tending to side with Jokowi.
President Jokowi’s track record in Surakarta and Jakarta should be applauded, but this is national politics. He would need maneuvers to outwit his opposition and prove that he is a man of himself and not a puppet of his political backing. What he did with KPK and PPATK to “screen” his ministers is one way for him to say “no” – along with the help of the media who can still back him up as long as he is still popular. Thus, his compromised cabinet may seem understandable, but in the very short run President Jokowi would need to prove that he can make his cabinet work – because he can’t run the government by himself. The stage is now set, and this will truly test his capabilities as a leader of change we voted for.