Panwaslu probes smear campaign

The city’s election supervisor is looking into a number of reports of negative campaigning against gubernatorial candidates ahead of the September runoff.

Ramdansyah, chairman of the Jakarta branch of the Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu Jakarta), said on Saturday that the alleged negative campaigning, some of which involved religious figures, occurred in South, East and West Jakarta.

“We’re summoning those who submitted reports and witnesses in the respective cases,” Ramdansyah said in his office in Central Jakarta.

Panwaslu Jakarta had received a report of a preacher allegedly telling his congregation to vote based on a candidate’s religion at a house of worship in Menteng Atas, South Jakarta.

Ramdansyah, however, refused to give further details on the incident.

“We’re still gathering evidence on the case,” he said.

Another report filed in East Jakarta accused a cleric of linking election issues with the four so-called SARA topics, short for suku (ethnicity), agama (religion), ras (race) and antargolongan (intergroup relations), in his Friday sermon at An Nursyiah Mosque on Jl. Galur Sari Raya 19 in Utan Kayu Selatan, East Jakarta.

The poll supervisor was also looking into an incident in which officials found pamphlets describing one of the candidates as a Zionist in West Jakarta.

None of the six candidates contesting the July 11 election won over 50 percent of the vote and the two top finishers, Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Governor Fauzi Bowo, will face each other in a runoff election on Sept. 20.

In a move aimed at curbing negative campaigning in the lead up to the runoff, the poll supervisor has officially asked the local Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB Jakarta) and local religious leaders to keep the election free from racial, ethnic and religious slurs.

The Panwaslu Jakarta, FKUB and local religious leaders held a friendly meeting at the poll supervisory office. The two candidate pairs were invited, but only Fauzi’s running-mate, Nachrowi Ramli, came to the meeting, while Jokowi’s running-mate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who had previously confirmed his attendance, later canceled.

Ahmad Syafii Mufid, FKUB Jakarta chairman, said that the forum supported the poll supervisor’s initiatives.

“We agree with Panswaslu Jakarta’s vision and mission. The election should be secure and peaceful and should not lead to conflict and division among the people,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad said religious leaders should abide by government regulations that forbade political campaigning in places of worship.

“Religious leaders have the freedom to express their opinions of the election, but there are regulations to obey,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Jokowi camp filed a report with the Jakarta Police, claiming that there had been an effort to smear Jokowi and his running mate Ahok. The campaign team said it had come across pamphlets and had read messages on Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger that denigrated Ahok’s Chinese heritage and Christian faith.

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