Updated: 02/22/2013 22:54 | By Agence France-Presse

Indonesia names ruling party chairman as graft suspect

Indonesia's anti-graft body named Friday the chairman of the ruling party as a suspect in connection with a multi-million-dollar corruption case, the latest scandal to hit the president's party ahead of 2014 elections.

Indonesia names ruling party chairman as graft suspect

Indonesia names ruling party chairman as graft suspect

"We have decided to name AU as a suspect," said the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) spokesman Johan Budi, referring to the initials of Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum.

The commission said it has sufficient evidence that Urbaningrum allegedly "received gifts or a promise of gifts" in relation to the corruption case linked to the construction of the Hambalang sports centre development project near Jakarta, worth 1.17 trillion Rps (120.5 million USD), in late 2010.

The suspect status of Anas is an embarrassment for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who won a landslide victory for a second term in 2009 on a corruption-fighting platform.

At the beginning of December, the sports minister, Andi Mallarangeng, who used to be the presidential spokesman, was forced to resign after being named a suspect in the same case.

He was the first minister to resign over graft allegations since the country's powerful KPK began operating in 2003 with a mandate to crack down on rampant graft.

The party's former treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin was jailed last April for four years and 10 months over a separate sports graft case.

The Hambalang sports centre was built following a tender process that has been publicly questioned. The case has been dogging Indonesia's politics and Democratic Party for years, ever since the KPK kicked off an investigation into the development of the sports complex in 2010.

Urbaningrum's suspect status came just weeks after Yudhoyono took over the party's leadership in a bid to salvage its reputation before the 2014 general and presidential elections.

The 43-year-old Urbaningrum is one of the youngest party leaders in Indonesia. He was elected chairman in 2010, beating former sports minister Andi Mallarangeng who was endorsed by Yudhoyono, the founder of the party.

While the country has shown an improvement in tackling corruption over the past decade, that success has dwindled in recent years.

Last December it slid to 118th of 176 countries ranked by Transparency International's (TI) annual index, which rates the least to the most corrupt states.

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