Chief Justice Mahfud announced recently that he will not seek a second term as chief justice of the Mahkamah Konstitusi. When going through his confirmation hearings, Mahfud promised to be less outspoken and to not “legislate from the bench”. However, the chief justice has become a mainstay in the public media, often commenting about hot-button political issues. The court has also taken an increasingly populist turn under his watch. Recently, the MK declared BP Migas unconstitutional because it undermined state control over natural resources.
Many suspect that Mahfud’s stepping down next year will allow him to run for the presidency in 2014. As a former professor of Islamic law, Mahfud has Islamic credentials without being too “fundamentalist”. His decisions from the bench and lack of corruption scandals both allow him to portray himself as a populist. Given the relatively weak presidential field next year, he has a fair shot at president or vice-president. The biggest question might be which party he chooses to join. He was a DPR member from PKB from 2004-08, but I could imagine him forming an alliance with a larger party to pass the electoral threshold for fielding a presidential candidate.
The Jakarta Post has a brief retrospective.