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FKUB Asked to Help Keep Polls Free From Ethnic, Religious Slurs

In a move aimed at curbing negative campaigns in the lead up to the second-round election for Jakarta governor in September, the city’s election supervisor has officially asked local religious leaders to keep the elections free from racial, ethnic and religious slurs.

The Jakarta branch of the Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu Jakarta) sent a letter on Thursday to the local Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB).

In the letter, Ramdansyah, the committee’s chairman, requested that the forum play a role in encouraging religious leaders in the capital to prevent activities relating and/or leading to negative campaigning, espousing hatred based on the four so-called SARA pillars. SARA stands for suku (ethnicity), agama (religion), ras (race) and antargolongan (intergroup relations).

“Slanderous messages toward the gubernatorial election candidates are prohibited under the law,” Ramdansyah said.

Furthermore, the supervisory committee called on religious leaders to keep places of worship free from political campaigning as stipulated under the 2004 law on regional administrations.

Election officials have confirmed that none of the six candidates contesting the July 11 election won and that the two top finishers, Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and incumbent Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, will face each other in a runoff election on Sept. 20.

Ramdansyah said his office had also sent letters containing the same appeals to both Jokowi and Fauzi’s campaign teams.

Panwaslu Jakarta has yet to receive any reports of alleged smear campaigns against the candidates or of candidates campaigning in mosques or churches.

The Jokowi camp, however, has filed a report with the Jakarta Police, claiming that there had been an effort to smear Jokowi and his running mate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. 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.

Political analysts have said that ethnic and religious prejudice was still quite strong in the capital. More than 35.5 percent of the 10.1 million people in the capital are Javanese, as is Jokowi, while 27.65 percent are Betawi, or native Jakartan, as are Fauzi and his running mate Nachrowi Ramli. The city’s other major ethnic groups are Sundanese, accounting for 15.27 percent; Chinese, at 5.53 percent; Batak, at 3.61 percent and Minangkabau, at 3.18 percent.

Muslims make up 85 percent of the city’s population, followed by Christians at 10.7 percent, Buddhists at 3.3 percent, and Hindus at 0.2 percent. Fauzi, Nachrowi and Jokowi are all Muslims.

Titi Anggraini, executive director for the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), said that election organizers and the public should be aware of prejudice in negative campaigning.

“It is actually quite surprising that anyone would use SARA in campaigns, considering that Jakarta’s population are for the most part well-educated.”

source: The Jakarta Post

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