Indonesia: VP Candidate To Quit As Minister, His Team Calls President Biased


By Nazarudin Latif

Indonesia’s chief security minister who is running for vice president in next month’s election is resigning, he said Wednesday, as his campaign spokesman claimed the nation’s leader was showing support for the ticket that includes his eldest son as VP nominee.

Minister Mohammad Mahfud MD said he resigned to focus on his vice presidential bid on Feb. 14, but observers said he also quit because he was increasingly uncomfortable as his partner, presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo, criticized President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo while campaigning.

“I will bid farewell courteously and I will hand in the [resignation] letter as soon as I have an appointment with the president,” Mahfud said in a video message shared on social media. 

“The president will be in Jakarta on Thursday, and so will I. With luck, as soon as we get to Jakarta, we can see each other right away.”

Over at Jokowi’s office, Ari Dwipayana, the head of the president’s special staff, said Jokowi respected Mahfud’s decision. Ari also said the president would meet with Mahfud soon to accept his resignation letter.

“We remain hopeful that the departure of [Mahfud] will not cause any problems. The operation of the government and the roles of the coordinating ministry for political, legal and security affairs will proceed without problems,” he told reporters.

Earlier this month, Mahfud announced his intention to resign by Jan. 23, the deadline for public officials to leave their posts before the election. He had said he wanted to set an example to candidates in the upcoming mammoth electoral exercise to not abuse their position or state resources for campaign purposes.

Indonesians will be voting for their next president and vice president along with representatives to both houses of the national parliament as well as members of bicameral provincial legislatures

The presidential election features three contestant pairs. Other candidates are Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is Jokowi’s son, and former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan with running mate Muhaimin Iskandar.

Although Jokowi has not officially endorsed any candidates, it is accepted that he will favor Prabowo and his son, Gibran. Jokowi defeated Prabowo in the last two elections in 2019 and 2014.

Haris Pertama, Ganjar campaign spokesman, said Jokowi was flaunting his preference for Prabowo-Gibran.

“It’s not right that the president openly favors one [set of] candidates, especially when it is his son,” Haris said.

He said if Prabowo and Gibran were popular, they wouldn’t need the president’s endorsement.

“Without the president’s support, they should be able to win,” he said.

Whether the president should support anyone at all became the topic of furious debate last week after Jokowi said that he had the right to campaign and pick sides. Election observers and political parties roundly criticized him for potentially compromising the election’s neutrality.

When asked by reporters about Jokowi’s comments a day later, on Jan. 25, Mahfud claimed not to be bothered.

“It’s OK if the president said that, just go ahead,” Mahfud said, according to local news site Tempo.

Asked if a president campaigning and taking sides would violate any laws, Mahfud deflected the question.

“Ask the legal department of the presidential secretariat,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of professors, students and alumni of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta issued a statement on Wednesday to remind Jokowi, an alumnus, of his duty to uphold democratic principles. 

“President Jokowi, as a UGM alumnus, should adhere to the identity of UGM … by contributing to the strengthening of democratization,” their statement said.

‘A paradoxical position’

Meanwhile, Jokowi’s comments about having the right to pick sides in the election solidified for many their belief that he would favor Prabowo and Gibran even though they don’t belong to his party – Ganjar and Mahfud do. 

Then there were the optics of Jokowi and Prabowo dining together, not once, but twice, this month.

Amid such displays of bonhomie, Mahfud felt uneasy in the cabinet, because his presidential candidate Ganjar was out criticizing Jokowi on the campaign trail, said Ujang Komarudin, a political analyst at Al Azhar University.

One such instance in November was at a campaign event when Ganjar rated the Jokowi government poorly for its performance in law enforcement, giving it five points out of 10.

He said there needed to be improvements such as protection for everyone, not just a few, under the law.

“Mahfud, as the security minister, is in a paradoxical position,” Ujang told BenarNews.

On the one hand, he and Ganjar need to criticize the efforts of the Jokowi government, because they are running against Prabowo and Gibran, who Jokowi is perceived to be supporting.

On the other hand, for Mahfud, such criticism would be “tantamount to criticizing himself,” because as a cabinet minister he represents the government, Ujang said.

“The only option for him is to resign,” the analyst said.


BenarNews’ mission is to provide readers with accurate news and information that reflects the complex and ever-changing world around them. With homepages in Bengali, Thai, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia and English, BenarNews brings timely news to its diverse audience. Copyright BenarNews. Used with the permission of BenarNews

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