The Jakarta Post
Former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD has said that vice presidential candidate Ma’ruf Amin was behind the statement from Islamic mass organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) that “threatened” to withdraw its support for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo if the incumbent picked Mahfud as his running mate.
In a tell-all appearance on popular talk show Indonesia Lawyer’s Club, Mahfud provided details on the circumstances surrounding the surprise announcement of Ma’ruf as Jokowi’s running mate.
“[NU executive] Robikin delivered the statement and Kiai Ma’ruf Amin was the one who ordered it,” he said. “How do I know it was Kiai Ma’ruf Amin? Muhaimin told me,” he said, referring to National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar.
The day before Jokowi’s choice of Ma’ruf was announced, NU executive Robikin Emhas stated that the NU leadership wanted Jokowi to pick an NU member for running mate.
“If the vice presidential candidate is not from among the NU’s ranks, then the Nahdliyin [NU followers] will feel no moral responsibility to help [Jokowi] win,” he told reporters, adding that the NU did not consider Mahfud to be a member.
Mahfud said that Muhaimin told him it was Ma’ruf who dictated the statement to Robikin with instructions to give it to the press.
Mahfud was considered a near certainty as Jokowi’s vice president in the days leading up to the close of the presidential candidate registration, but Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman and NU Rais Aam (supreme leader) Ma’ruf was given the nod instead.
“On August 1 at 11 pm, I was invited by State Secretary Pratikno [to his house],” Mahfud said. “I was told, ‘Pak Mahfud, now the [running mate] choice has narrowed down to you, please get ready.’”
He added that he had heard from Jokowi himself that the change had been made at the last minute to appease the parties in Jokowi’s coalition.
Mahfud implied that the PKB, the NU's unofficial political arm, was one of the parties that had pressured Jokowi into making the switch.
Mahfud is closely affiliated with the NU, 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.
However, in the weeks before the VP announcement, NU executives seemed to play down Mahfud’s involvement in the organization, and things came to a head with Robikin’s statement.
NU and PKB representatives did not immediately respond to The Jakarta Post's requests for a comment. (swd)