Newly-elected Indonesian minister gives away cooking oil, tells recipients to vote for his daughter

Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan holding up a pouch of subsidized cooking oil. Photo: Trade Ministry
Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan holding up a pouch of subsidized cooking oil. Photo: Trade Ministry

Not even a month into his tenure as trade minister, Zulkifli Hasan has already received some public scolding from President Joko Widodo after he gave away cooking oil to an audience at an event in return for their promise that they would vote for his daughter.

Last Saturday, Zulkifli attended an event hosted by his party, PAN (National Mandate Party), in Lampung. A video from the event showed him handing out subsidized cooking oil to the ladies in attendance. During a speech that followed, Zulkifli called on the attendees to vote for his daughter, Futri Zulya Safitri, in the 2024 legislative elections.

“With IDR10,000 (US$0.67) you can get 2 liters [of the cooking oil]. Did you bring the IDR10,000? Keep it in your pocket, it’s all on Futri,” Zulkifli said.

“But later on you’ll vote for Futri, okay? If you do, we’ll hold an event like this every two months.”

Jokowi, who was on an official trip to West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), gave a verbal warning to his new trade minister yesterday.

“I ask that all my ministers focus on their jobs. As for the trade minister, I ask that he prioritize the task I gave him the other day,” Jokowi told reporters.

“[He should be concerned with] how to push down the retail price of cooking oil to IDR14,000 (US$0.93) per liter, or even below that.”

Using free cooking oil to gain votes certainly did not sit well with Indonesians, after the country saw prices of the essential good skyrocket this year amid a supply shortage.

Today, the retail price of a liter of cooking oil varies from IDR20,000-30,000 (US$1.34-2).

Jokowi made it clear when appointing Zulkifi as trade minister on June 15, replacing Muhammad Lutfi, that controlling the price of cooking oil will be among his top priorities.

Zulfikli may be better known outside of the country as the Indonesian politician who was on the receiving end of some strong scolding from Harrison Ford AKA Indiana Jones himself in 2013. Back then, Zulkifli, who was forestry minister, appeared flummoxed when Ford pressed him about illegal deforestation in Sumatra for the latter’s documentary.

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