JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s top security minister has resigned from the Cabinet of President Joko Widodo to focus on running for vice president in this month’s election.
Mohammad Mahfud M.D. said he was resigning to concentrate on the Feb. 14 election in which he is the running mate of former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo — who has been campaigning against Widodo’s record. Mahfud announced the resignation Wednesday and said Thursday it was accepted by the president.
“Due to political developments, I had to focus on other duties and had to resign from the Cabinet,” Mahfud said at a news conference after meeting with Widodo.
Observers said that Mahfud resigned because it had become increasingly awkward to continue in Widodo’s administration while Pranowo launched criticisms of it.
Mahfud’s resignation came amid speculation and reports in local media about other potential Cabinet resignations before the election.
So far, the vote is a three-way race between Pranowo, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who is considered the frontrunner and who has picked the president’s son as his running mate.
Widodo is serving his second five-year term in office, and cannot run again.
“Mahfud’s resignation could be a provocation or trigger for other ministers to do the same thing,” said Adi Prayitno, the executive director of Indonesian Political Parameters, one of Indonesia’s reputable opinion poll institutions.
The vice presidential candidacy of Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Widodo’s 36-year-old son, is widely seen as representing Widodo’s implicit support of Subianto, who is in his third bid for the presidency.
However, Raka’s candidacy has been the subject of heated debate because the country’s Constitutional Court had to make an exception to the minimum age requirement of 40 for vice presidential candidates to allow him to run.
Later, the chief justice, who is Widodo’s brother-in-law, was removed by an ethics panel for failing to recuse himself and for making last-minute changes to election candidacy requirements.
Subianto has vowed to continue the president’s development plans, in what observers view as an attempt to draw on Widodo’s popularity.