Asia Minute: Indonesia’s Political Evolution Continues

Oct 22, 2019

This is already turning out to be another week of dramatic political developments in the United States. But in Southeast Asia, there is drama of a different kind as the president there begins his second term.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is beginning his second term with some unusual choices as policy advisers.

The man who ran against him in the past two presidential elections will be joining the cabinet. Prabowo Subianto is a retired general who heads the political opposition, and back in April he challenged the results of the presidential election – alleging systemic fraud and abuse of power.

The former rivals are now on better terms, and Prabowo will be a key member of what Widodo calls a “reform government.”

Another new face in the cabinet will be a tech billionaire named Nadiem Makarim. He founded the company Gojek nine years ago as an app-based firm delivering rides and food by motorcycle. Now it’s ballooned into a 10-billion-dollar company with investors ranging from Google to the Chinese tech firm Tencent Holdings.

While President Widodo wants to emphasize economic growth and bureaucratic reform, he faces a parliament reflecting the increased power of conservative Islamic parties — as well as some broader skepticism about reform.

Street protests erupted in Jakarta and elsewhere last month about proposed changes to national laws-reducing protections around civil liberties and also weakening the country’s anti-corruption agency.

Further details on the president’s cabinet are expected later this week.