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Indonesia's Wahid names new Cabinet

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid made good Wednesday on his promise to shake up his much-maligned government, but the embattled leader's new Cabinet bears a familiar look.

Sixteen members of the old 35-person Cabinet are staying on in the new and smaller 26-member body -- 12 of them in the very same positions they held before.

Facing sharp criticism from Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly earlier this month, Wahid said he would take steps to improve his government's performance.

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Last week, the 60-year-old cleric announced he was handing over much of the country's day-to-day operations to his hugely popular vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's founding President Sukarno.

Wednesday's announcement further altered the function of the Indonesian government by dividing the Cabinet into two parts -- economy and politics/security -- each headed by a coordination minister.

Retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was tapped for the top political post, and economist Rizal Ramli will assume the economics mantle when the group is sworn in on Saturday. Yudhoyono was the mines and energy minister in the previous Cabinet. Ramli is a former student activist who was an outspoken critic of former President Suharto's economic policies.

The appointments of Yudhoyono and Ramli were widely expected, but Wahid's choice of longtime friend Prijadi Praptosuhardjo as finance minister was a controversial one.

Prijadi, a low-profile banker who has spent most of his career with the state-run Bank Rakyat Indonesia, had earlier failed a "fit and proper" test when Wahid nominated him to head the central bank, disqualifying him from that post.

But Wahid defended his choice of Prijadi as finance chief.

"I know (Prijadi) very well because I have observed him for 16 years," the president said.

Among the other appointments, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab, armed forces commander Admiral Widodo, Interior Minister Surjadi Judirja, Housing/Regional Infrastructure Minister Erna Witoelar, Law/Human Rights Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra, Trade/Industry Minister Luhut Pandjaitan and Transportation/Communications Minister Agum Gumelar retained their seats.

Wahid surprised the pundits, however, when he chose Mahfud Md, a professor at the Islamic Indonesian University, to assume the defense ministership and Purnomo Yusgiantori to replace Yudhoyono as mines and energy minister. Neither has high-level government experience, but analysts expressed confidence.

Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria RessaReuters contributed to this report.

ASIANOW


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