Dividing the spoils: The Jakarta Post

It is in a classic patron-client relationship where a patron grants favors in return for political services, loyalty and allegiance shown by the client. The granting of these favors happens mostly around general election time when incumbent office holders seek to consolidate their hard-won power.


President Joko “Jokowi“ Widodo (left) and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto (right) engage in a conversation before boarding the presidential aircraft on March 8, 2024. PHOTO: ANTARA/ THE JAKARTA POST

June 19, 2024

JAKARTA – It is not exactly good corporate governance but it has been a well-worn practice in Indonesian politics.

It is also a classic patron-client relationship in which a patron grants favors in return for political services, loyalty and allegiance shown by the client.

The granting of these favors happens mostly around general election time when incumbent office holders expect reelection or new election winners seek to consolidate their hard-won power.

And since finding positions or tenure in the bureaucracy or a ministry requires more thorough vetting, granting seats in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) for political clients is the path of least resistance.

And there is nothing easier than finding commissioners’ seats in SOEs for these politically connected individuals as the positions demand very little in terms of actual skills necessary to do the job.

Four individuals sworn in for the job of commissioners at three major state-owned companies last week, Grace Natalie, Fuad Bawazier, Simon Aloysius Mantiri and Siti Nurizka Puteri Jaya may or may not have the skills and knowledge in the business of mining or the fertilizer industry, given their assignment to firms like mining holding entity Mind.id, state-owned oil company PT Pertamina or fertilizer company PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja.

Yet, there is no doubt that their appointments as commissioners in these companies had a lot to do with the fact that they were politicians from political parties responsible for the election of president-elect Prabowo Subianto.

Grace is the deputy chair of the board of trustees of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) and a close ally of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, and has been a conduit in the relationship between the outgoing President and the president-elect.

Fuad, Simon and Putri Nurizka on the other hand are all senior politicians from the Gerindra Party, the political party of Prabowo.

It could have been a straightforward case of an election winner dividing the spoils of office had it not been for the appearance of Grace’s name on the list.

If anything, the granting of plum jobs to individuals from Prabowo’s camp should be seen as an attempt by the outgoing President to curry favor with his successor.

It is no longer a secret that President Jokowi wants to play a key role in the country’s politics beyond the expiration date of his term in office on Oct. 20 this year and in the past two years he has made numerous efforts to achieve this outcome.

He has reportedly struck a bargain with the president-elect that will allow several of his ministers to serve in Prabowo’s cabinet.

And now that he has succeeded in his plot to install his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka as vice president, he will likely take another shot especially in the upcoming regional head elections in November.

Now, there has been talk about nominating his second son Kaesang Pangarep to run as deputy governor in the Jakarta gubernatorial election. There are also plans to have politicians he endorsed run in local elections elsewhere, such as his son-in-law Bobby Nasution running for governor of North Sumatra and former police general Ahmad Luthfi running for governor of Central Java.

With all these major plans, it is very difficult not to place Prabowo or Gerindra Party in the picture, especially now that the outgoing President is no longer in good standing with his own political party.

The patron-client relationship has been the hallmark of Indonesian politics for decades, and President Jokowi has brought it to a new height and new level of sophistication, including the crafting of a new regulation to allow a religious organization to run mining operations.

But there is still always the old way of doing things; giving away plum jobs at SOEs.

scroll to top