President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's rivals in next week's presidential election claim the incumbent is clutching at straws to retain his presidency, after Yudhoyono's recent statement that his rivals were using black magic against him.
"It's very surprising that a former general with a doctorate could make such a statement," Alvin Lie, a member of Vice President Jusuf Kalla's campaign team, told The Jakarta Post in Jakarta on Saturday.
"It shows he's panicking. It's also a sign he has lost his self-confidence and rationality."
Yudhoyono made the statement Friday night during a gathering with the Nurussalam Islamic prayer group at his home in Cikeas, Bogor, West Java. Yudhoyono told the gathering, as quoted by detik.com, that "in this period of campaigning, there are many people out there who use black magic".
SBY also said that he was so concerned about it that he, his wife and his driver continuously prayed on their way to Jakarta to take part in Thursday night's final presidential debate.
"Thankfully we got to our destination safely," he said.
Hasto Kristianto, from Megawati Soekarnoputri's campaign team, said the whole thing was a ploy by the President.
"The statement truly depicts Yudhoyono's strategy to gain support by playing the victim," he said.
"He just wants to garner more and more votes by claiming he's under attack from magic spells by his rivals."
Criticism of Yudhoyono's statement has not been limited to his rivals, but has also come from the ranks of prominent political experts.
Fadjroel Rachman, head of the Research Institute for Democracy and a Prosperous State (Pedoman), said the President's remarks that effectively affirmed his belief in black magic were shameful and pathetic.
"Where would this nation go if its own president, who has a doctorate, believes in superstition?" he said.
"Believing in black magic is irrational. If Dr. Yudhoyono behaves irrationally, then he's effectively burying the nation's rationality and common sense."
University of Indonesia political expert Rocky Gerung said Yudhoyono had dragged the country back to the dark ages with his statement.
"If a war of magic really does take place, then we might as well give politicians' posts to shamans," he said.
However, members of Yudhoyono's campaign team said his remarks were based on real-life experiences.
"The President revealed his personal experiences dealing with paranormal occurrences. The experiences were real," said Anas Urbaningrum, deputy chairman of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.
Another party executive, Achmad Mubarok, said black magic was a discipline that could not be easily comprehended by regular scholars and common religious leaders.
"Scientists do not have the capability to access the world of black magic," said the professor at the University of Indonesia. (hdt)