ASIA NEWS NETWORK
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Strategy of the coward
Publication Date : 21-07-2012
The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) officially announced the final results of the July 11 gubernatorial election on Thursday, essentially confirming the results of a number of exit polls - known as a 'Quick Count' - that had put Surakarta Mayor Joko Widodo "Jokowi" and incumbent Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo as the top two finishers.
Jokowi secured 1,847,157 votes and Bowo 1,476,648; slightly different from the results released by five exit poll organisers hours after the voting finished.
As the race for the capital city's number one position will be decided in a runoff election scheduled for Sept. 20, political temperatures are heating up with increasing occurrences of the two opposing camps involved in "unethical campaign strategies" — known as negative campaigning — against each other by, among others, referring to negative aspects of their opponent or of a policy rather than emphasising one's own positive attributes or preferred policies.
Such negative campaigns include the exploitation of aspects locally known as SARA (tribal affiliations, religion, race and societal groups) by means of pamphlets and pictures and message dissemination through Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry messages, and other forms of social media. The use of such negative campaigning is surely a setback in our efforts to maintain harmony in such a diverse society as Indonesia.
It certainly needs further investigation to find out who the instigators of such negative campaigns are. But the fact that the campaign team of Jokowi and his running mate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaya Purnama and the general public have received materials denigrating Jokowi's and Ahok's religiousness as well as the latter’s Chinese background, and the dissemination of pictures that portray Bowo as Adolf Hitler or Jokowi as US President Barack Obama only confirm that such negative campaigns do occur.
It is regrettable that such campaign materials are still used in a democratic country such as Indonesia, as it is feared that such negative campaigning could spark clashes between supporters of the different candidates. Worse still is that it could even create segregation in society.
However, the fact that the Jokowi-Ahok pair received the largest number of votes in the first round election at least shows that voters do not really care about the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the candidates, but rather their personality and track records.
There will still be two months for the two pairs of candidates to "influence" eligible Jakarta voters before the runoff election. Learning from the first round election, the two pairs should therefore use smarter methods in "promoting themselves".
Rather than launching negative campaigns against each other, they should make maximum use of the time remaining to promote their programmes on how to settle serious and chronic problems in the capital city: Traffic congestion, annual flooding, poor sanitation in slum areas, health services and urbanisation.
Offensive campaigning, however, is within tolerance as long as it touches, for example, on the negative track records of the candidates, such as whether a candidate is implicated in corruption or whether a candidate has failed to perform well in providing services to the public. Such facts are indeed important information for voters before they go to the ballot boxes in September.
For Jakartans, they want to see the candidates offer substance, not sentiments, in their campaigns.