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Jakarta Post

Candidates rachet up tensions

  • Callistasia Anggun Wijaya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 25, 2017   /  09:14 am
Candidates rachet up tensions Muslim men shout "God is great" during a rally against Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, on Dec. 2. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

The growing animosity between the supporters of Jakarta gubernatorial election rivals Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and Anies Baswedan has mostly been channeled digitally, with the two camps insulting each other on social media.

But the animosity could turn ugly in the real world as the two camps gear up to do battle at polling stations across the capital during the April 19 election runoff.

The campaign team of Anies and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, for instance, has recruited members of mass organizations, such as the Betawi People’s Communication Forum (Forkabi), the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) and the Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans’ Children (FKPPI).  

“Some civil organizations came to us and said they wanted to be involved on the day.  But the members came to us as individuals without using the organizations’ banners,” said Syarif, the spokesman for the campaign team of Anies and Sandiaga, on Friday.

The groups have officially endorsed the Anies-Sandiaga ticket. Anies said they discussed problems encountered during the first round of the election, especially polling station monitoring.

The new recruits will be stationed at polling stations as witnesses, replacing witnesses who arrived late during the first round of the election.

Only two witnesses will be placed at each polling station, Syarif said.

Five days before voting day, the campaign team will hold a simultaneous technical guidance course at sports halls in each of five municipalities to improve the witnesses’ understanding about election procedures.

“Our witnesses should be able to give reasonable arguments regarding any irregularities at polling stations and differentiate between legal votes and illegal ones,” said Syarif.

The recruits will be joined by an online anti-Ahok movement called Tamasya Al-Maidah (Al-Maidah Tour) on election day.

Tamasya Al-Maidah is an application available on Playstore that invites Muslims from across the country to flood into polling stations to guard them on election day.

The application is named after a verse in the Quran that is often used by conservative Muslim groups to urge Muslims only to vote for candidates of the same faith as themselves.

The program calls on registered volunteers to select the polling station they wish to guard on election day. In the memes circulating on social media, male volunteers are required to wear a white shirt and black songkok [traditional hat], while their female counterparts are required to wear gamis [traditional dress] and dark veils to stand out from the crowd of voters.

Human rights activists have criticized the movement as it could be regarded as intimidation of voters who want to vote for Ahok in the election.

Syarif claimed that his campaign team was not aware of the Al-Maidah Tour movement, adding that the team would hand over all security matters to the police.

The Ahok camp is planning to counter the movement by grooming its own witnesses to safeguard voting at all 13,032 polling stations scattered throughout the capital.

Ahok campaign team spokesman I Putu Artha told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the team would recruit only the best people to ensure that no fraud occurred on voting day.

“The core of our defense is witnesses. We want a strong defense in the runoff,” he said.

Putu said the team had about 70,000 witness candidates, comprising members of political parties that backed Ahok as well as volunteers.

On Saturday, the team will train and recruit the candidates at JiExpo Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, where Ahok himself will motivate them to become qualified witnesses.

The trainers will explain voting rules to the participants as well as how to deal with some issues, including the Al-Maidah Tour movement.

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Editor’s noteThe Jakarta Post revokes the sentences in paragraph three of the article indicating that the Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans’ Children (FKPPI) along with the two other organizations were allegedly involved in gang violence. We apologize for the improper reporting in this article.

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