October 19, 2023
JAKARTA – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri on Wednesday named Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD as the running mate to presidential hopeful Ganjar Pranowo for next year’s presidential election.
Mahfud, 66, a native of Madura who once served as Constitutional Court chief justice, will run as the vice-presidential candidate in the Feb. 14 poll, where Ganjar is to face off against presumptive election rivals Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra Party and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan.
“He is a well-known figure whose thinking I understand,” Megawati told the packed conference at the PDI-P headquarters in Jakarta. “He is an honest, courageous person whose commitment and idealism are unquestionable […] and with an exceptionally broad portfolio.”
Leaders of all PDI-P partners for the 2024 election, the United Development Party (PPP) and non-legislature parties Hanura and Perindo, attended the announcement on Wednesday.
Ganjar and Mahfud are the second confirmed candidate pairing for the upcoming race, after Anies named his running mate as Muhaimin Iskandar, the chairman of National Awakening Party (PKB), which has strong ties to the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
The decision ended months of speculation about who would be Ganjar’s running mate. Earlier this month, there was heavy speculation that Megawati would tap Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who is the governor of East Java, the stronghold of the NU.
While Mahfud has never officially been a card-carrying member of the NU, he is closely affiliated with the group, having been educated at an NU-run pesantren (Islamic boarding school) and for his long involvement in NU-related organizations such as GP Ansor, the NU’s youth wing, and the Wahid Institute.
This is not the first time that Mahfud’s name has entered the shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates, with the senior minister widely tipped to be President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s pick in 2019 before being dropped at the eleventh hour and passed over in favor of the then-supreme cleric of the NU, Ma’ruf Amin.
Mahfud has a broad portfolio in all three branches of government, from serving as defense minister and law minister under then-president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid to sitting at the House of Representatives as a lawmaker from the PKB and leading the Constitutional Court from 2008 to 2013.
Mahfud is known as a frank and outspoken figure, whose public profile has soared in recent months following his bold response to major issues that have captured the public’s attention, such as a mega-corruption scandal at the Finance Ministry and the Ferdy Sambo police murder case. Mahfud’s constant defense of freedom of religion and speech is another factor that has made him attractive to voters.
Indonesia is set to vote in presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 14, 2024, and the weeklong registration for candidates opens on Thursday.
With the announcement by Ganjar’s camp, all eyes are now on his main contender Prabowo, who has been eyeing President Jokowi’s eldest son, Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka of the PDI-P, as his running mate.
Just three days before candidate registration opens on Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled on Monday in favor of allowing elected officials, including Gibran, regardless of age to run for office in the upcoming race. The game-changing ruling has triggered concern over the integrity of the election and a wave of condemnation against Jokowi’s seeming effort to build his own political dynasty.