JAKARTA (AFP) – New Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled his cabinet Sunday, which included the country’s first female foreign minister, after a lengthy delay caused by anti-corruption authorities’ concerns about several candidates.
Key figures include Retno Marsudi as foreign minister, Bambang Brodjonegoro as finance minister and Sofyan Djalil as chief economics minister. It included eight women, a higher number than in the previous cabinet.
The 34-member cabinet is broadly split between professionals and party politicians, as Widodo seeks to balance a pledge to pick the best people in their fields with pressure to reward parties who backed him at July’s election.
The team of ministers will be key in helping Widodo, known as Jokowi, push through much-needed reforms to boost Southeast 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 Widodo’s party, and other figures close to her were named as ministers, which will add to concerns the former president may seek to influence policy from outside government.
The announcement was expected as early as Tuesday, a day after Widodo 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,” Widodo said, as he announced the cabinet.
The agency raised concerns about eight prospective ministers, forcing Widodo – Indonesia’s first leader from outside the political and military elites – to scramble to find replacements.
Since the downfall of dictator 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.
Widodo, a 53-year-old former furniture exporter, pledged to eschew backroom deal-making in a bid to usher in a clean new form of government after beating controversial ex-general Prabowo Subianto in the election.
But growing pressure in recent weeks prompted him to make a concession, and he agreed to give out around half the jobs to allies.
Most prominently, Puan Maharani, the daughter of 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 confidant, 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.