President Joko Widodo (Image credit: Cabinet Secretary)

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – President Joko Widodo may appoint a new Minister for Social Affairs, replacing Khofifah Indar Parawangsa, who has reportedly tendered her resignation after deciding to run for East Java governor in this year’s regional election. Will this pave the way for the President to carry out a ‘limited cabinet reshuffle’ before his current term expires in 2019?

President Widodo admitted that he has received a letter from Minister Khofifah Parawangsa, but has yet to open it. This signals that the President has yet to come to a decision as to whether he will replace the Minister or appoint an Acting Minister. However, many observers believe that Minister Khofifah is likely to be replaced, clearing the way for her to run for Governor of East Java in the upcoming regional election.

Tjahjo Kumolo, Home Affairs Minister, said earlier that President Joko Widodo could reshuffle his cabinet in early 2018, indicating that the President did plan a final reshuffle during his current term of office.

On Thursday, President Widodo held an internal meeting at Bogor Palace, attended by Minister of State Secretary Pratikno. One alleged point on the agenda of the meeting was to prepare for a cabinet reshuffle.

The Joko Widodo-Jusuf Kalla term of government now effectively has just one year left to run. The General Election Commission is scheduled to announce the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates by the end of this year. President Joko Widodo is most likely to run for a second term of office, although he has yet to issue an official statement on the matter, while Vice President Jusuf Kalla is most likely to retire from the active political arena.

The President, given his recent statement, wants his cabinet ministers to continue to work as usual and not become distracted by any political agenda. Therefore, now is the right time for the President to make some changes in his cabinet to ensure that its members remain working effectively, executing all the programs that have been laid down.

In recent months, President Joko Widodo has continued to visit regional areas, either to inaugurate projects or attend local government events. During these visits, he usually takes time to meet people on a grassroots level. Every time he visits, he is greeted enthusiastically by the people, as seen by his recent visit to Sumatra, Papua, Rote and Timor. This shows that President Joko Widodo remains popular. Some polls conducted by a number of institutions also show that President Joko Widodo is still popular.

However, in politics, things could change instantly. Therefore, the President still needs support from political parties, and this is reflected in the composition of his cabinet. Any changes in the cabinet may also reflect changes in the political support for the President.

Currently, a majority of parties are supporting the Joko Widodo-Jusuf Kalla government, namely, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Golkar, National Awakening Party (PKB), United Development Party (PPP), National Mandate Party (PAN), National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and The People’s Conscience Party (Hanura).

Most of the current political parties that are supporting the current Joko Widodo government have openly declared that they will support Widodo to run for a second term, such as Nasdem and Golkar. However, certain political parties have sent mixed signals, indicating that they may or may not support Widodo in the upcoming Presidential election. This includes PAN, which has yet to issue a clear statement.

There is no firm regulation restricting the Chairman of a political party from holding a cabinet minister position. As happened in the past, during the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono era, the Chairman of PPP also held a position as Minister for Religious Affairs. Thus, Hartarto could still maintain his current post as Minister for Industry.

At the beginning of his term, President Joko Widodo made it clear that ministers should leave their political posts to ensure that they focus on their job as ministers. For this reason, Wiranto, who was appointed as Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security, at that time decided to resign from his post as chairman of Hanura Party. In the case of Hartarto, the President has yet to make a decision.

The question now is who will replace Khofifah, a cadre of PKB? Given her political background, most likely President Joko Widodo will appoint someone from the same political party as Khofifah, or at least a candidate recommended by PKB. The other possibility is that the post will be held by someone from another political party, and the PKB-support cadre will get a post in another ministry.

Apart from Khofifah, Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto is also rumored to be ready for replacement, following his recent election as new Golkar Party chairman, replacing Setya Novanto, who is currently facing trial related to an electronic ID card graft case.

However, some observers have said that the President may keep Hartarto as the Industry Minister, as Widodo needs Golkar support in the 2019 presidential election.

In addition to the two posts, over the past two days, there were rumors that the President may carry out a limited cabinet reshuffle.

Rumors circulated in the media that the President might make changes in cabinet posts and other key positions within his administration. Teten Masduki, currently the Head of Presidential Staff (KSP), is rumored to be replaced by former military chief Moeldoko or current State-Owned Enterprise Minister Rini Soemarno.

As the President is preparing to reshuffle his cabinet, the Constitutional Court on Thursday (11/01) issued a verdict, which rejects the judicial review on a threshold, or limited percentage of Parliament seats that can qualify a Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate in the presidential election.

This verdict means that only a party or a combination of a number of parties that have minimum of 20 seats in Parliament can propose Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, or a party or a combination of parties that won in the current election with a minimum of 25 per cent of seats in parliament. The decision practically closes the doors for smaller parties to propose their own President-Vice President candidates. They have to join with larger parties.

The verdict also means that it is crucial for President Joko Widodo to maintain existing majority parliament support in order to smoothen the way for him to run for a second term.

Written by Staff Writer, edited by Roffie Kurniawan, email: