INDONESIA'S Parliament will decide today whether Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo is an eligible candidate for the governorship of the country's central bank, or to reject the president's nominee at the first hurdle.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month sprang a surprise by nominating the career banker to take over Bank Indonesia from May, rather than give the current governor, Darmin Nasution, a second term.
Harry Azhar Azis, deputy chairman of financial commission, said yesterday that the commission will meet this evening, a day later than had been expected, to determine Martowardojo's eligibility.
He was rejected once before for the position back in 2008.
His rejection at that time was seen more as Parliament flexing its political muscles in competition with the presidential palace rather than anything specifically against Martowardojo.
If Martowardojo is declared eligible today, the commission will then set a date for a "fit and proper test" and vote whether to approve his appointment.
Neither Golkar party, a junior and sometimes awkward member of the ruling coalition, nor the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) have said whether they will support Yudhoyono's choice.
Without their support it is unlikely to go through.
PDI-P officials said the party would probably decide later yesterday.
However, some Parliamentarians have questioned Martowardojo's lack of experience in monetary issues, which will be a chief concern of the central bank. Its regulatory oversight of the banking industry will shift to another agency next year.
Others have also raised doubts over his integrity. The finance minister was recently questioned by the anti-corruption agency as a witness in an investigation into a graft scandal surrounding construction of a sports centre, an issue which has badly hit Yudhoyono's ruling Democratic Party. But there has been no suggestion that Martowardojo was himself involved in any wrongdoing.
If Parliament decides against Martowardojo, the president will have to offer a new candidate. Yudhoyono has given no reason why he did not seek to extend Nasution's tenure at Bank Indonesia nor did he say why he wanted to move Martowardojo out of the Cabinet.
Some analysts have said the shift to central bank governor will mean Martowardojo will have less political sway.
But at least the central bank is independent of government, so Martowardojo would still have say in economic policymaking if the ruling Democrat Party loses power in the general and presidential elections due next year, when Yudhoyono is set to stand down having served a maximum two terms. Reuters