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Published: Friday January 10, 2014 MYT 9:15:01 PM
Updated: Friday January 10, 2014 MYT 9:15:54 PM

Indonesia's anti-graft agency arrests ex-chairman of ruling party

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's anti-graft agency arrested a former senior member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's party on Friday, in a long-running case that has damaged the ruling party's popularity ahead of elections.

The Corruption Eradication Commission - known locally as the KPK - arrested Anas Urbaningrum, former chairman of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, on bribery charges in a $205 million graft scandal surrounding the construction of a sports stadium in Hambalang in West Java province.

"Yes, (Urbaningrum) has been arrested by the KPK," a spokesman for the agency, Johan Budi, told Reuters.

Urbaningrum is the latest in a string of Democratic Party officials to be ensnared in this and other headline-grabbing corruption cases over the past year, which included a cabinet minister and even a former beauty queen.

The scandals have left the ruling party without a popular presidential candidate and crippled its support in opinion polls, which show it is set to garner less than 10 percent of the national vote in April's general elections.

Yudhoyono, 64, is due to step down after he reaches his limit of two five-year terms at the helm of Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Parties are required to get 25 percent of the popular vote to be able to put forward a candidate in July's presidential race.

Urbaningrum, who was said to have been groomed to one day take over the Democratic Party but later fell out of favour because of the corruption allegations, has threatened to release damning evidence against other senior party officials in the Hambalang case.

Yudhoyono swept to power largely on an anti-graft platform in Indonesia's first direct presidential election in 2004.

But the country's rank of 114 out of 177 in Transparency International's annual corruption puts it the same company as Egypt and Ethiopia.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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