Mahfud MD has been elected the next chief of one of the nation’s most influential Muslim organizations, boosting his credibility as one of the strongest potential candidates in the 2014 presidential election.
The outgoing chief justice of the Constitutional Court will be the chairman of the Islamic Students Alumni Association (KAHMI) at its national congress in Kampar, Riau, Antara news agency reported.
Mahfud won 347 votes to secure the top position in the organization, edging out several high-profile candidates, including House of Representatives lawmaker Viva Yoga Mauladi of the National Mandate Party (PAN), who received 334 votes, and Anas Urbaningrum, the chairman of the Democratic Party, who came in third with 320 votes.
The chief justice said that he would not use his leadership of KAHMI to help him with his presidential aspirations.
“I will not allow this organization to enter the political arena,” Mahfud, who will lead the association until 2017, said after his election.
Mahfud, who served as defense minister from 2000 to 2001 under president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid and as a National Awakening Party (PKB) lawmaker from 2004 to 2008, applauded KAHMI for running a congress that he said had been “very fair and democratic”.
Under the collective leadership mechanism of KAHMI, Mahfud will hold power with eight others.
The nine candidates who received the most votes in the election were automatically appointed to serve as members of the association’s presidium.
Other top finishers who will join Mahfud on the presidium include Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan, who came in fifth with 308 votes; outspoken Golkar Party lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo, with 260 votes; and Crescent Star Party (PBB) chairman and former forestry minister Malam Sambat Kaban, with 156 votes.
Analysts agreed that Mahfud’s victory was an indication of his rising popularity, particularly among the members of the nation’s Muslim-majority electorate.
According to a survey that was released by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) pollster, last week, Mahfud is the most popular potential candidate for the 2014 presidential election
Meanwhile, Anas’ third-place showing at the KAHMI congress was interpreted as evidence of his weakened influence in the Muslim community.
Anas’ reputation has been tarnished following allegations of his involvement in a host of high-profile corruption cases, including massive misappropriations in the construction of the Rp 1.17 trillion (US$121.96 million) Hambalang sports complex in Bogor, West Java.
Anas, who was once thought to be a potential presidential nominee from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, has been grilled by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on his role in the cases.
The head of the KAHMI congress organizing committee, Johar Firdaus, said that he welcomed Mahfud’s victory.
KAHMI had to remain independent and be free of any political affiliations, Johar said. “This is consistent with the desire of a majority of KAHMI’s members, who want this organization to be led by a non-politician.”
KAHMI is an organization of the alumni of HMI, the largest organization of Islamic students in Indonesia.
Some political figures from the HMI have previously used their positions in the organization to advance their public and political fortunes.