Joko Widodo Appoints First Female Foreign Minister For Indonesia

Corey Blake

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced his new cabinet today, including Retno Marsudi, the country's first female foreign minister.

Widodo, who was elected president of Indonesia in July, unveiled his choices for the 34 member cabinet Sunday morning. It includes positions for eight women total, higher than any previous cabinet. Joko's selection of Retno Marsudi as Indonesia's first female foreign minister has been mostly met with praise. But there is less enthusiasm for the appointment of Puan Maharani, the daughter of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri as Widodo's minister for human development and culture. Critics complain that nearly half of Joko's cabinet is made up of political allies rather than professionals, according to The Guardian.

Marsudi is Indonesia's current ambassador to the Netherlands and will be sworn in to her new position with the rest of the cabinet tomorrow. Widodo described her as a hard worker who is "firm and visionary." The Sydney Morning Herald reported on past dealings with Joko's new foreign minister in Australia. It is expected Retno will follow the current Indonesian strategy of a "free and active" foreign policy that maintains "a thousand friends and no enemies." Joko is less familiar with foreign policy than his predecessor, so he will likely rely much more heavily on his foreign minister.

Widodo was sworn in as president last Monday. His campaign included a promise to build a cabinet that comprised of experts in various fields or technocrats. However, political pressure from four parties resulted in Joko promising almost half of the positions to political allies, such as former President Megawati's daughter.

"It's cronyism," said University of Indonesia political analyst Arbi Sanit to AFP regarding Widodo's choices. "I am disappointed and have no confidence in this new cabinet – the ministers are all weak."

In hopes of preventing this very reaction, and also hoping to reverse the country's reputation of corruption among international investors, Widodo took the unprecedented step of having his selected ministers vetted by the country's Corruption Eradication Commission. As Reuters reported, eight of Joko's selections were rejected last week, delaying the cabinet's announcement. Widodo has spent this past week scrambling for last minute replacements.

"The process of defining the ministers were done carefully and cautiously as this is a priority," Widodo said. "The cabinet will be working for five years and we want to get the clean ones... because we want to be accurate and right."

Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world and the third largest democracy. It is also the most heavily populated country to have a majority of Muslims. Joko Widodo, commonly called Jokowi, is the country's seventh president following its independence from the Netherlands in 1945.

[Image source: Deccan Chronicle]