Even as Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo denied attacking the religion and ethnicity of his opponents in the September gubernatorial runoff, a celebrity member of his campaign team said anything was fair game to win the election.
Rhoma Irama, the country’s so-called king of dangdut, appeared to justify attacks on Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and Chinese-Indonesian who is the running mate of Solo Mayor Joko Widodo.
Speaking on Sunday night during a Ramadan prayer event, Rhoma said exploiting differences in ethnicity, religion and group affiliation, collectively known as SARA, to attract voters was a defensible strategy to win elections.
“In campaigning for voters, using SARA is legal. We live in an open era and a democracy, and people have to know who their leader is,” he said.
The Jakarta Elections Supervisory Body (Panwaslu) has said that SARA is off limits in election campaigns, citing the 2004 law on regional elections.
“The introduction into the campaigns of public slander, defamation and the vilification of others through SARA is prohibited,” said Ramdansyah, the Panwaslu chairman.
The law stipulates jail sentences of between three and 18 months and fines of Rp 600,000 to Rp 6 million ($63 and $635) for violations.
Fauzi’s camp has been accused of attacking Basuki’s religion and ethnicity. Rhoma, however, claimed he had consulted with Jimly Asshidiqie, chairman of the honors council overseeing the election, on the use of SARA-related attacks.
“I can talk like this because the council chairman supports me,” he said.
Separately, the Jakarta chapter of the General Elections Commission (KPUD) has extended the deadline for new voters to register for the second round of the gubernatorial election to this Saturday.
Aminullah, chairman of the KPUD’s voters registration working group, said that after the deadline, no more registrations would be accepted and the ballot papers would be printed.
As of late Sunday, 19,6791 more people had registered to vote in the runoff. But Aminullah said that number could shrink as the KPUD verified the names.
“After registration is closed, officials at the polling station level should complete the new voters list. The municipal and district KPUD offices will then validate the data so there are no double registrations,” he said.
“The final voters list will be determined in a plenary that will be attended by the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Body and the campaign teams of the two candidates that made it into the second round,” he said .
Fauzi and running mate Nachrowi Ramli will face Joko and Basuki in the second round of voting on Sept. 21.