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The strategic battle between both candidates running for the Sept. 20 runoff of the gubernatorial election intensifies with both of them recently attempting to gain support from various parties.
Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, for example, paid a visit to two Muslim clerics last week, in a move dubbed a form of silaturahmi (strengthening bonds) by a representative of Jokowi’s campaign, Sirra Prayuna.
He said on Tuesday that it had been the strategy of Jokowi to go directly into the field to hear people’s complaints and aspirations.
“We’re approaching people from all kinds of backgrounds, whether they’re Muslims or non Muslims,” he said, adding that there would be no significant change in Jokowi’s strategy prior to the upcoming second runoff.
Jokowi’s opponent, incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo, has been taking a similar approach by adopting a more down-to-earth persona since he lost to Jokowi in the first runoff, according to University of Indonesia social psychologist Hamdi Muluk.
Last week, for instance, he appealed to the needy by visiting a densely-populated neighborhood scorched by fire in Pekojan subdistrict, Tambora, West Jakarta. In the same week, he attended a bazaar which sells cheap staple foods to people in Penggilingan subdistrict, Cakung, East Jakarta.
On Monday, Fauzi attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the Hakka Museum at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) in East Jakarta, reaching out to the Chinese-Indonesians of the Hakka ethnic group.
These moves, however, might be perceived as peculiar by people, as it could be perceived as an abrupt behavior change for the governor, said Hamdi. “If Fauzi is suddenly willing to mingle with people and is being friendly with the press, they may question the genuineness and authenticity of his behavior.”
“Even during his tenure as governor, he rarely listened to the people’s aspirations. He is seen as a bureaucratic figure, who spends most of his time in his office, compared to Jokowi, who spent most of his time in the field during his tenure as the mayor of Surakarta,” he said.
Budi Siswanto, secretary of Fauzi’s campaign team, meanwhile, said that the governor had been actively working in the field during his tenure.
“He’s the type of person who doesn’t want his deeds to be exposed, compared to Jokowi, who receives a lot of exposure in the media,” he said.
Besides appearing to be more approachable, Fauzi also launched a series of populist policies as his term in office was coming to a close, such as the free 12-year compulsory education program and free health services at all public hospitals in Jakarta for residents holding relief letters (SKTM).
“This is the advantage of being an incumbent. They can arrange the timing [of populist policies] when they need [to boost their popularity],” Hamdi said.
Jokowi, despite being a media darling, is also criticized for building his image during campaigning, by always wearing the famous red-checkered shirt, as a strategy to win votes. “Yet, he barely talks about how his programs are superior to Fauzi’s,” Yunarto Wijaya, a political analyst from think tank Charta Politika, said.
According to Hamdi, this is a deliberate move from Jokowi, who sees that the best way to differentiate him from other candidates is through building his image by focusing on his track record, not by sounding off on his programs.
“Programs from the candidates are generally the same, as they use the service of consultants to design the programs,” he said. “So the voters will judge the candidates based on their track records and image.”
Both candidates had been accused of committing smear campaigns, with the Jakarta Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu Jakarta) launching a probe into dangdut singer Rhoma Irama for allegedly making disparaging comments against the religious beliefs held by Jokowi’s running mate, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
The poll supervisor said on Tuesday it had completed the collection of testimonies for the case, the last of which came from the representatives of Fauzi’s camp.
“Testimonies from all sides will be collected together to be analyzed. They will assist us in reaching a conclusion,” Panwaslu Jakarta chairman Ramdansyah said.
Rhoma allegedly made his comments while delivering a sermon at a Jakarta mosque, which was also attended by Fauzi, to whom Rhoma is lending his support. (han)