Lenny Tristia Tambun
September’s Jakarta gubernatorial runoff election could be marred with vote buying, smear campaigning, racial divisiveness, an inadequate voter list and partisan electoral officials, a democracy advocacy group warned on Wednesday.
Titi Anggraini, director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), called on the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) and the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU) to conduct a safe, orderly, transparent and open election on Sept. 20.
Titi said that the contenders — incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo and challenger Joko Widodo — could tap into ethnic, religious and racial divisions, collectively known as SARA. One fear was that candidates would use the veneer of Islam-inspired donations to charity, known as ZIS, to channel funds in an attempt to win voter support. The risk was particularly high during Ramadan.
“They will cool the public’s anger toward money politics with ‘black’ campaigns in the form of ZIS. This is an insult to Islam. To prevent this from happening and spreading, Panwaslu can tell the public not to accept ZIS from the candidates who ask for their votes in return,” Titi said.
The watchdog group warned that campaigning on SARA issues was already occurring, with text messages circulating using ethnic grounds to attack one of the candidates. Titi did not name the candidate.
“SARA is very sensitive, as it could create friction among the people. Major campaigning against this needs to be done so that people will not be influenced by the SARA issue and then trade blame. The Panwaslu must move to anticipate this issue,” Titi said.
She also called on Panwaslu to respond to problems related to the voter list by registering eligible voters who were not registered in the first round to enable them to cast a ballot in the September poll.
“People who register for the second round but aren’t given a chance to exercise their voting right without a clear explanation from the KPU and Panwaslu could lead to a bigger problem,” she said.
Titi also reiterated the need for neutral electoral committee members, and urged Panwaslu to act swiftly against those found to have sided with one of the contenders.
Jakarta Panwaslu chairman Ramdansyah said that his organization would focus its supervision and monitoring on those potential problems identified and called on the public to play an active role in filing reports if they see violations.
“We have reacted to reports about the neutrality of electoral committee members in two areas. Both of the committee members have been dismissed,” said Ramdansyah. He added that the committee members were dismissed because they were still members of a political party. Legally, a person can only apply to be a member of an electoral committee if he or she has not been associated with a political party for at least five years.
One of those dismissed was also caught distributing campaign material for one of the contenders.
Abdullah Dahlan, the political corruption director at Indonesia Corruption Watch, criticized Panwaslu for not taking legal action after finding the violation.
“Based on our observation, no cases have been processed [legally] yet. Supervision is instrumental in the implementation of a regional election to achieve high integrity. The low number of people who have reported violations in the regional election suggests Panwaslu needs to become more innovative,” Abdullah said.
ICW claimed it found 39 cases related to money politics and abuse of power. Other findings related to campaign funds have still not been responded to sufficiently, Abdullah said.