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An Indonesian vice presidential candidate quits as a Cabinet minister before this month’s election

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s top security minister said Thursday that President Joko Widodo had accepted his resignation from the Cabinet before this month’s election.

Mohammad Mahfud M.D. announced on Wednesday that he was resigning to focus on his vice presidential bid on Feb. 14. Mahfud is the running mate of former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo.

“Today I officially and respectfully submitted my resignation to the president,” Mahfud said at a news conference after a meeting with Widodo. “Due to political developments, I had to focus on other duties and had to resign from the Cabinet.”

Observers said that Mahfud resigned because he became increasingly uncomfortable as Pranowo criticized Widodo’s administration while campaigning.

Mahfud’s resignation came amid speculation and reports in local media about other potential Cabinet resignations before the election. 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 picked the president’s son as his running mate.

The election will determine who will succeed Widodo, who is serving his second and final term.

“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 country’s Constitutional Court made an exception to the minimum age requirement of 40 for vice presidential candidates that allowed Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Widodo’s 36-year-old son 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 making last-minute changes to election candidacy requirements.

The ruling has been a subject of heated debate in Indonesia, and Raka’s candidacy is widely seen as implicit support from Widodo for Subianto’s third bid for the presidency. Subianto has vowed to continue the president’s development plan, in what experts view as an attempt to draw on Widodo’s popularity.

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