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INDONESIA POLLS: Campaigning in Indonesia turns ugly with alleged military bias

Publication Date : 06-06-2014

 

The second day of the General Elections Commission (KPU)-sanctioned campaign period in Indonesia saw on Thursday a possible violation when the Indonesian Military’s (TNI) village non-commissioned officers (Babinsa) reportedly intimidated a local in Central Jakarta.

The officer allegedly forced a resident to pledge to vote for the Gerindra Party’s presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, a former commander of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus).

Media reports said that early on Tuesday, a resident of a Chinese Christian neighborhood in Central Jakarta was visited by a man claiming to be a Babinsa officer. The man said he was assigned to verify data of eligible voters in the neighbourhood, but later asked the locals in the area to vote for Prabowo.

The alleged incident happened a few days after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono publicly called on the TNI and the National Police to remain neutral in the lead-up to the July 9 presidential election.

Yudhoyono was irked by reports that several high-ranking officers had been approached by political parties to support particular presidential candidates contesting the July 9 poll.

The TNI claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.

However, TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya said the Army had ordered its unit commanders and Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) to launch a probe into the allegation, as part of a move to ensure the TNI’s neutrality ahead of the election.

“The TNI commander [Gen. Moeldoko] has given an order to us to launch an investigation into this allegation,” Fuad told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting at the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Fuad also said that “officers who support either one of the presidential candidates will be punished”.

Moeldoko, who was also seen at the scene, declined to comment.

Prabowo’s camp said that it was not responsible for the alleged violation.

Prabowo’s national campaign team spokesperson Tantowi Yahya, who is also a member of House Commission I overseeing foreign affairs and military, said that such a violation was not acceptable.

“We have nothing to do with it. It’s not part of our strategy,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the second day of the election campaign, the presidential candidates started reaching out to voters outside Java.

On Thursday, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his running mate Jusuf Kalla split their duties by traveling to the country’s farthest provinces, Papua and Aceh.

In Papua, Jokowi introduced his spouse Iriana, whose name was taken from the province’s original name Irian Jaya, in a move seen as an attempt to win the hearts of locals.

In Aceh, Kalla met with local Muslim leaders and presented a proposal to promote tolerance and peace among subscribers of different faiths in the country.

While Kalla was meeting with religious leaders to promote pluralism, in Jakarta leaders of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) officially declared their support for Prabowo and his running mate Hatta Rajasa, on the condition that more sharia-inspired bylaws be passed in the future.

FPI chairman Rizieq Shihab said that the group supported the Prabowo-Hatta ticket because the pair won support from Islamic-based parties like the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP) and the Crescent Star Party (PBB).

 

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