World Bulletin / News Desk
One month before the world's largest Muslim democracy, chooses a new president, pollsters say an Indonesian tabloid's "black campaign" is evidence of a concerted effort to discredit the leading candidate.
Independent pollster Politicawave has found that Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and running mate Jusuf Kalla had been the subject of 94.9 percent of slander, while rivals Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa were the subject of a minimal amount.
In the past few months, questions have been raised in the nation's press about Jokowi's ethnicity, race and religion, along with allegations of corruption. One report even went as far as to claim Jokowi had died.
Jokowi - a one time little-known furniture retailer, whose stock began to rise in 2005 when he became mayor of the central Javanese city of Solo and is now favorite for the presidency - led rival Subianto by more than 10 percent in Indonesian Survey Circle polls conducted after this week's presidential debate. Analysts said Jokowi appeared to score more points in the two-hour long debate, but no killer blows.
Subianto is a businessman and heavily decorated lieutenant general, having headed the country's oppressive special forces under General Suharto 16 years ago.
Among recent efforts to disturb Jokowi's run are a series of anonymous tabloid-style newspapers that have been sent to 23,000 Islamic boarding schools (Pesantren) run by the Nahdlatul Ulama - a traditionalist Sunni Islam group. Each Pesantren accommodates at least 100 students - in all a large political voice.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Of the country's 250 million people, 82 percent are Muslim, while 33 percent are Nahdlatul - around 83 million people.
Until now, three anonymous editions of "Obor Rakyat (Torch People)" have been circulated. The first was titled "Puppet Candidates," and suggested Jokowi was little more than a puppet of Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's first president and the leader of the Jokowi's Indonesian Democratic Party of struggle (PDIP).
The second and third accused Jokowi of being a liar, a Singapore citizen and a Christian - a minority in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.
Muhammad Sholeh, the leader of a boarding school in Tuban, a town on the north coast of Java in the country's West, told Anadolu Agency Friday that he had received three large shipments of the tabloid, each arriving out of the blue, almost as if he was immediately expected to distribute them.
"I wondered where the sender had got my address, and they'd not even included theirs," he told AA this week. "The whole thing is deeply suspicious."
Sholeh said he'd heard the tabloids were also sent to the leaders of the boarding school, a local mosque, and the local branch office of Nahdlatul.
He said that it was obvious that the sole aim of "Obor Rakyat" was to discredit Jokowi, as they did not contain a single word about Prabowo or Hatta Radjasa.
The charges were so serious that Jokowi was forced to halt his campaign while visiting Ciamis in West Java on Thursday to deny the charges.
He denounced the journals as ridiculous, ridiculing whoever had spread the rumor that he was Chinese as "just not being that creative.
"As you can see, my face is "ndeso," he said, using a colloquial term for those of Javanese descent who live in settlement areas. "My father is from a village, along with my mother."
He added that his look should not be an issue; it's his knowledge that counts.
"Rustic face, but with a significant international brain," he noted, to the cheers of his supporters. And as for those who say I am not handsome, "try looking at me from more than ten feet."
Many people attribute Jokowi's popularity to his laid back approach, his sense of humor and his ability to walk among the masses. He likes to arrive unannounced in different parts of the capital and talk with local people about issues affecting them. The visits are known locally as blusukans, or "unscheduled visits."
Indonesia's Honorary Chairman of the Board of Election Jimly Asshiddiqie said this week that he believes "black campaigns" are part of any winning campaign team, created purely for the motive of being rewarded with a good job in government when their candidate won.
Subianto himself, however, is not without accusation - this week after a live presidential debate, Fadli Zon, the deputy chairman of Subianto's political party Gerinda, launched into a defense of Subianto with regard to Jusuf Kalla's charge that he was guilty of gross human rights violations when he was head of the special forces, including the alleged kidnapping of students in the last days of Suharto's regime.
"It was a cheap [question], taken from the rubbish bin once again," he said.
He went on to try and assure reporters that neither Prabowo n'or his campaign team would ever think of doing such a "devious thing" to Jokowi's camp.
Jokowi continues to lead, but polls say Prabowo is catching up with less than a month to go before the July 9 vote. With around 40 percent of the electorate reported to be undecided, debates and highly partisan television coverage are expected to play a large role in who will lead the world's third-largest democracy for the next five years.
The "black campaign" is now being investigated by police, the National Intelligence Agency deploying officers to investigate who is behind the tabloid.
"We will soon help (looking for perpetrators)," State Intelligence Agency Head Marciano Norman said this week.
Last Mod: 15 Haziran 2014, 11:14