The Jakarta Post
Cities have pledged to host peaceful campaign events amid concerns over rising sectarian sentiment during elections over the past few years.
Residents, local public figures and legislative candidates of major cities in the country--namely Medan in North Sumatra, Pekanbaru in Riau, Semarang in Central Java and Makassar in South Sulawesi--gathered at the cities’ respective town squares on Sunday, pledging to maintain a peaceful campaign period, which runs from Sunday to April 13 next year.
Makassar General Elections Commission (KPU Makassar) chairperson Misna M. Attas said the region had been zoned “red” until recently, meaning that it had been prone to conflict. However, its security status was revised to “green” following successful 2018 regional elections.
“South Sulawesi […] is in the ‘green zone’ at the moment. We shall maintain it during the ongoing campaign period until the 2019 elections end,” Misna said.
South Sulawesi Governor Nurdin Abdullah supported the pledge, calling on people to respect each other regardless of ethnicity and religion. “Let’s not undermine our achievement in the 2018 regional elections,” he said.
In Semarang, legislative candidates, led by Central Java KPU chairman Joko Purnomo, made their vow to lead a peaceful campaign period. The declaration was witnessed by, among others, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, Semarang Mayor Hevearita Gunaryanti Rahayu and Central Java Police chief Ir. Gen. Condro Kirono.
“The legislative candidates are allowed to argue against each other’s ideas, but please do so in an orderly fashion. Use this campaign period to offer solutions to various problems in society,” Ganjar said.
Similar events were also held in Pekanbaru and Medan, with both events calling on residents to avoid hoaxes and tribal affiliation, religion, race and societal group (SARA) related issues during the campaign period.
“Let us guard the election [from hoaxes and SARA issues] to create a peaceful atmosphere,” Riau acting governor Wan Thamrin Hasyim said.
Separately, Rizal, a mass organization leader in North Sumatra, said the anti-hoax and anti-SARA campaign must be supported “to realize honest politics in Indonesia.”
Observers have noted increased sectarian sentiment in recent elections, the worst being the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election and the 2014 presidential election. In 2017, then- Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, lost to challenger Anies Baswedan in a runoff election, after being charged with blasphemy following a statement he made insinuating that religious leaders had used a Quranic verse to manipulate voters. In 2014, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo faced accusations that he was a communist sympathizer and that he was actually a non-Muslim. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country with a long history of communal conflicts. (vny/swd)