The Jakarta Post
Legislative candidates are resorting to the supernatural ahead of April’s election, with many visiting the graves of respected figures or praying to the ancestors in traditional rituals.
Several legislative candidates running in Palembang, South Sumatra, have visited the grave of renowned local cleric Ki Marogan, as well as the graves of members of the Sriwijaya Kingdom’s royalty on Siguntang Hill.
Among those seeking the blessings of the deceased was Golkar Party legislative candidate Anita Noeringhati, who said she visited Ki Marogan’s grave to pay her respects. Many graves in Palembang were historic sites, she said.
“[During the visit] an ustaz [Islamic teacher] guided me in how to pray properly,” Anita told The Jakarta Post recently, adding that she visited the graves regularly, even before the campaign season.
She said apart from praying for success in her provincial legislative council race, she also prayed for the clerics and for a peaceful Indonesia.
According to Ismail of the Kiai Muara Ogan (Ki Marogan) Foundation, legislative candidates also visited cemeteries in other regions of the country such as Lampung and Jakarta. They typically visited in groups, he said.
“They do not explicitly say they come as legislative candidates, but they pray for victory [in their legislative races],” said Ismail.
The caretaker of King Segentar Alam’s grave on Siguntang Hill in Palembang, Yadi, told a similar story.
According to Yadi, most visitors did not openly declare their true intentions or identity, but he recognized them as legislative candidates nonetheless.
“They usually come in groups, not just to the king’s grave but also to the graves of the commander and the princess,” he told the Post.
The local culture and tourism agency said the graves were important heritage sites. Siguntang Hill, on which at least seven tombs of the Sriwijaya Kingdom’s royalty are preserved, is the highest peak in Palembang and is believed to have served as a place of worship for members of the royal family in the past.
In Surakarta, Central Java, the grave of Ki Gede Sala, who is considered the founder of Sala, a former name for the city, is among the most popular destinations visited by legislative candidates.
“For many officials it has become a place to seek blessings. During an election, even more people, mostly candidates, visit the grave to pray to the deceased and seek clues on how to win their races,” cemetery caretaker Joko Saputro Adi said, adding that Friday, or Kliwon according to the Javanese calendar, was the most popular day for legislative candidates and officials to visit.
Ki Gede Sala was one of the most influential religious figures in the country’s history and introduced Islam to Central Java.
Another popular site in the city is the grave of former authoritarian president Suharto in Karanganyar.
“I admired Pak Harto. I think political rituals like this are acceptable,” legislative candidate Sutopo said.
Another legislative candidate, Hartono, denied the candidates’ actions were heretical, contrary to what many conservative Muslims might say.
“Our visits [to graveyards] does not mean we don’t believe in God. This is what Javanese people call effort. We still leave the rest to God,” he said.
Candidates in East Manggarai, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, have even conducted traditional rituals to bring good luck and blessings.
Fransiskus Yosef Andi Syukur said he performed the Teing Hang ritual on Thursday night, which involved preparing offerings for the ancestors and asking them to secure victory.
“We can fight and win through the spirits of our ancestors. I have become part of the Manggarai people and tradition, so [the ritual] is necessary,” he told the Post.
Local traditional leaders, who lead the ritual, are believed to be able to predict the results of the election through signs shown by a white chicken prepared as an offering, as explained by traditional leaders Fransiskus Ndolu, Damianus Tarung, Petrus Ngempeng and Aloisius.
The leaders then share the signs with the candidate and provide insights.
“If the signs are good, we’ll encourage them to work hard in the campaign. If they are bad, we’ll discourage the candidate because the ancestors do not appear to give their blessings,” the leaders said.