Lenny Tristia Tambun
In the run-up to the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial elections, polling monitors have threatened politicians with jail for building their campaigns around racial, religious and ethnic issues.
The formal campaign period is set to run from Sept. 14 to 16. Ramdansyah, the head of the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Body (Panwaslu), reminded everyone involved that the divisive issues, collectively known as SARA, would not be allowed in campaign material.
“The introduction into the campaigns of public slander, defamation and the vilification of others because of SARA issues is prohibited. This is regulated in the laws,” Ramdansyah said.
He said that under the 2004 Law on Regional Governance, electoral campaigners were prohibited from insulting others, including using the issue of religion, ethnicity, race and group affiliation to insult other candidates or political parties.
The law stipulates jail sentences of between three and 18 months, and fines of between Rp 600,000 and Rp 6 million ($64 and $640) if the prohibition is violated.
“Therefore defaming others in a campaign should be avoided if one does not want to face jail terms and fines,” Ramdansyah added.
“Let us ensure a wholesome situation in Jakarta in the second round of the election. It should not be sullied by conflict because of SARA issues.”
He called on the two tickets — Fauzi Bowo and his running mate, Nachrowi Ramli, and Joko Widodo and his running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — to brief their supporters about the law and encourage them to campaign cleanly.
The Joko-Basuki ticket has been the target of repeated smear campaigns based on ethnicity and religion, campaign team member Muhammad Taufik said.
A series of posters and pamphlets recently circulated in West Jakarta warning voters not to vote for the pair, highlighting the fact that Basuki is of Chinese descent and a Christian.
Panwaslu also reminded both camps of restrictions on using religious activities as campaigning events.
“I have sent warning letters [on Monday]. I hope this call will be heeded by the candidates and their campaign teams,” Ramdansyah said.
But that call seems to have fallen on deaf ears, as both campaign teams have already scheduled regular gatherings with voters throughout Ramadan.
Joko garnered 43 percent of the vote in the July 11 election, winning in Jakarta’s five municipalities and only losing in the Thousand Islands district.
Fauzi finished second in the first round of the election, securing 34 percent of the total vote.
The runoff is scheduled for Sept. 20.