Indonesia’s Ruling Party Picks Top Security Minister as VP Candidate

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Indonesia’s Ruling Party Picks Top Security Minister as VP Candidate

Muhammad Mahfud is the second vice presidential candidate with close links to Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization.

Indonesia’s Ruling Party Picks Top Security Minister as VP Candidate

Ganjar Pranowo, the presidential candidate of Indonesia’s ruling Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), left, and his newly-named running mate Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD gesture during their declaration as presidential and vice-presidential candidates in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 18, 2023.

Credit: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

Indonesia’s ruling party on Wednesday named the nation’s top security minister as the running mate to the party’s presidential candidate in next year’s election in Southeast Asia’s largest democracy.

Muhammad Mahfud will be seeking the vice presidency alongside the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) presidential hopeful Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java.

The announcement by PDIP chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri was attended by three leaders of PDIP’s partner parties for the February election and sets up a potential three-way race, with Pranowo expected to face former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Anies chose his running mate as Muhaimin Iskandar, the chairman of the National Awakening Party, which has strong ties to the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which boasts over 45 million members.

PDIP’s pick is considered by many as a move aimed at boosting Pranowo’s popularity in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Mahfud, former chief justice of the Constitutional Court, is closely affiliated with NU and was long involved in related organizations, including the NU’s youth wing GP Ansor.

Megawati praised Mahfud as an honest, courageous person whose commitment and idealism are unquestionable.

“He is the figure we have mandated to reform the national legal system because the people have been waiting for this justice for a long time,” Sukarnoputri said. “We call for Indonesian people’s blessing, hopefully, people will help them to become the next leaders of this nation.”

Ganjar and Mahfud plan to formally register to run in the election at the General Election Commission, which opens registration on Thursday and has its final deadline next Wednesday.

Mahfud, who is known as a frank and outspoken figure, praised Pranowo in his inauguration remarks as the right figure to lead Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation, which is home to more than 270 million people.

“Together with Ganjar, I will dedicate myself, all my abilities, knowledge, experiences, to the nation and state of Indonesia,” Mahfud said.

It is still not yet clear when Prabowo will announce his running mate, which is speculated to be President Joko Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

The Constitutional Court on Monday ruled against lowering the minimum age of presidential and vice-presidential candidates to 35 instead of 40, but allowed an exception for those who served or been elected as regional leaders allowing them to run at younger age.

The ruling could pave the way for the 36-year-old Gibran, the mayor of Surakarta, to run in the election.
Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, is set to vote in simultaneous legislative and presidential elections on February 14, 2024. The country has had free and largely peaceful elections since the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998.