Beetween a rock and a hard place

27 04 2007

The issue of a cabinet reshuffle has come into the spotlight again after Vice President Jusuf Kalla spoke on the matter during an extraordinary consultation meeting in Yogyakarta last Friday. In fact, Golkar has actually demanded a reshuffle since the end of last year. At that time, Golkar’s Deputy General Chairman and the Speaker of Parliament, Agung Laksono, put forward the names of 15 cadres of his party to fill 10 positions in the cabinet. Golkar feels its stance is reasonable. After all, it holds more seats in parliament than any other party (23%) and yet still only has three cabinet posts.

And Golkar’s demands have intensified following the results of some surveys that reveal that the popularity of the President and the Golkar party is on the wane. Indeed, Megawati’s PDIP is now reportedly more popular than Golkar since higher food prices – in particular rice – have increased economic hardship for many. Golkar also believes that a cabinet reshuffle is necessary given the poor health of some of the current ministers.

The issue of a reshuffle is a hot commodity in Indonesia. During Golkar’s National Leadership Meeting in October 2006, 22 of the 33 regions proposed that Golkar withdraw its support for the government. Such calls came after the President established a Presidential Working Unit for the Management of Programs and Reform (UKP3R) without apparently any consultation with Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

And it appears that Golkar is once again seeking a cabinet reshuffle. This time, however, it is seemingly trying to use the interpellation move regarding the government’s support of the UN Security Council’s resolution on Iran as its ace card. Some Golkar members have called on the President to reshuffle the Cabinet by April 21 at the latest, trying to put pressure on the President as the interpellation issue will be decided during the plenary session on May 6.

Over the last two weeks, President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has unfortunately given mixed signals in regard to the issue of a cabinet reshuffle. Indeed, the President has not even confirmed that he would reshuffle the cabinet. On April 15 he dismissed calls for a cabinet reshuffle, saying this would only disrupt the government’s work. In this regard it seems SBY is too calculating in his efforts to secure his power. He does not realize that from the people’s perspective, his excessively cautious style is one of the reasons for the people’s disappointment after his promise to be more resolute and decisive. Download the full report.