February 1, 2024
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s top security affairs minister and vice-presidential candidate Mahfud MD announced his resignation on Jan 31.
The move was described by his chief campaign spokesman as a protest against partiality shown by parties who are openly taking sides for the Feb 14 general election.
Indonesia is gearing up to hold a three-way presidential election, contested by Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, who is pairing up with President Joko Widodo’s elder son, Mr Gibran Rakabuming Raka.
The other two pairings are former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, who is on the same ticket with Professor Mahfud, and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who is running with Mr Muhaimin Iskandar, chairman of a popular Islamic party.
Local media has criticised Mr Widodo for allegedly making moves to support his son and Mr Prabowo, and highlighted alleged intimidation by the police and the military in various cities directed at supporters of the two rival presidential pairs.
Both the police and the military have denied the allegations.
Mr Widodo was widely pictured having a bowl of meatballs with Mr Prabowo on Jan 29 at a roadside stall in Magelang, Central Java.
The picture of them together amid the heated election campaign drew flak from political analysts, including political commentator Arifki Chaniago, who said it was meant to convey Mr Widodo’s endorsement of Mr Prabowo.
Mr Widodo has said that the sitting president and vice-president are allowed to participate in election campaigns.
Under the prevailing law, they and other state officials are allowed to engage in campaign activities, but are prohibited from using state facilities, and they are required to take leave when participating in such activities.
Speaking out from Lampung province on Jan 31, Prof Mahfud said he and Mr Ganjar had agreed that anyone running for the nation’s top office should resign from his Cabinet post.
Mr Prabowo has not indicated that he would be stepping down from his defence post.
“I have spoken to Mr Ganjar, leaders of the political parties that support our ticket… This letter I will hand to the President once I get a chance to meet him. I will report to the President that I am done,” said Prof Mahfud in a YouTube broadcast, holding up a letter to the camera.
Prof Mahfud said he hopes to see Mr Widodo on his return from out-of-town trips on Feb 1.
Asked by reporters on Jan 31 about Prof Mahfud’s resignation, Mr Widodo said: “That is his right and I much respect that.”
Mr Ari Dwipayana, coordinator of presidential special staff, said Mr Widodo was expected to arrive in Jakarta late on Feb 1, adding that Prof Mahfud’s intention to meet the President to hand in his resignation letter is appreciated.
Following the resignation, Mr Karaniya Dharmasaputra, chief spokesman of the Ganjar-Mahfud ticket, told reporters: “The state apparatuses have abused their authority openly and blatantly to help a certain pair of presidential, vice-presidential candidates win.
“It is committed by those at the top through the bottom levels.
“This triggered the resignation of Prof Mahfud. This is a form of moral protest. This is to voice the concerns of the majority of the Indonesian people.”
Mr Karaniya added: “Look and open your eyes to what has been happening around us every day to see how intimidation (and) misuse of social aid for the transient political interest were committed for the interest of a certain pair of presidential and vice-presidential candidates.”
While Mr Widodo was on a working visit to Gunungkidul, Central Java province, on Jan 30, local residents unfurled a banner that said they supported Mr Ganjar as the presidential motorcade drove by.
These supporters were shoved aside by several local security officers.
An amateur video showing the incident made its rounds on social media.
One of the residents claimed he was taken away by security officers and beaten up, causing his nose and gums to bleed, local news site Detik.com reported, citing Ms Endah Subekti Kuntariningsih, head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s Gunungkidul chapter.