Wednesday, 19 September, 2012 | 20:28 WIB
On Voting, Religion and Ethnicity
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:With a Qur’an held over his head, Abu Bakar recites the words of the Islamic testimony of faith. This was done at 8:30pm on Tuesday night two weeks ago. Hundreds of residents had gathered at the multi-purpose hall at the Ministry of Defense Housing Complex in the Cidodol Sub-District, Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta.
This chairman of the Baitul Musibah Association began to speak the words of the oath, followed by the audience: “I swear to God, we swear as members of the Baitul Musibah, with obedience to Allah and His Prophet, to support Muslim leaders in the 2012 Jakarta Regional Head Election.”
Abu Bakar continued. “By God, we swear to vote for H. Fauzi Bowo and H. Nachrowi Ramli on 20 September 2012.” Applause broke out all over the hall. Nachrowi Ramli also applauded, who had been invited as Chairman of the Betawi Community Consultation Body.
Suddenly the lights went out, and the room was plunged into darkness. The reading of the oath stopped. When the lights came back on, some members of the committee were busy passing out Regional Health Security forms. The audience became noisy as they all tried to get their hands on the forms. At 10pm the event was over.
This pledge to support running mates Fauzi-Nachrowi, according to Abu Bakar, was a decision reached by this association which was established by the administrators of one neighborhood in the South Grogol Sub-District, Kebayoran Lama. “We never forced anyone. They came on their own,” he said.
Makmun Amin, Head of Fauzi Bowo’s campaign team, said he did not know there would be an oath taken on the Qur’an. He assured that there was never any order to seek votes through such methods. On various occasions Fauzi Bowo also denounced campaigning which used issues of race or religion.
This is not the first time the campaign has taken advantage of religious sentiments. At the end of last August, dangdut music singer Rhoma Irama called on the audience at the Al Isra Mosque in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta, to support Fauzi Bowo. He said that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok and Joko Widodo’s mother held different religious beliefs.
Later on, Rhoma was questioned by the Election of the Head of Jakarta Supervisors Committee, because he was accused of carrying out a negative campaign. However, he was not found guilty because he was not listed as part of the membership structure of Fauzi Bowo’s campaign team.
Various campaigns related to issues related to ethnic, religious, racial, and intergroup relations have been made against running mates Jokowi-Basuki ever since the results of the first round of the election showed they had received the most votes. A silly rumor spread that this pair supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) and the Gerindra Party even received funds from the Vatican.
In addition to that, hundreds of banners have appeared all over Jakarta asking residents to vote for leaders who are Muslims. There was also a banner which attacked Basuki for being of Chinese ethnicity. On the internet, negative campaigning was no less intense. On the YouTube website, there is a video of a Chinese cowboy which detracts against Basuki.
Despite the claim that this is not a part of the official activities of the campaign team, it is estimated that a number of these campaigns related to religious and race issues have been able to increase voter support for running mates Fauzi –Nachrowi. In a survey done by Lembaga Survei Indonesia and Tempo, the religion issue was the main reason respondents were voting for Fauzi.
In a poll done from 2-7 September 2012, there is still a lot of resistance against regional heads who have a different religion from the majority. A total of 57.4 percent of respondents said they had a problem if the leader was Protestant, and 56 percent of respondents were against being led by a Catholic.
In addition to this, 44.3 percent of Muslim respondents said they concurred that Islam disallows choosing non-Muslim leaders. A total of 48 percent said there is not a problem with voting for a non-Muslim leader. The remaining 7.7 percent said they did not know.
Voter said the main reason they are voting for Fauzi-Nachrowi is because they represent their religion. The next reason was that these running mates also known as Foke-Nara have provided a lot of social assistance and given a lot of attention to the people. “The effect of the religion issue is much more dominant compared to party consolidation of supporters for Fauzi-Nachrowi,” said Burhanuddin Muhtadi, Director of Communication at the Lembaga Survei Indonesia.
In addition to the religion issue, Burhanuddin added that the ethnicity issue has also has a great influence on voter choice in Jakarta. A total of 45.9 percent of voters said they had a problem being led by an ethnic Chinese. Furthermore, 50.4 percent said they had not problem with that, while 3.7 percent said they did not know.
Denny Iskandar, a member of the Jokowi-Basuki campaign team, did not deny that SARA (problems related to ethnic, religious, racial, and intergroup relations) are influencing voter support in the second round of the election. According to him, the impact of this issue can be seen in internal surveys they have conducted. “We are still lead by a slim margin, but we have not reached the target we hoped for,” he said.
Initially, the Jokowi camp ignored religious and ethnic sentiments. It was felt that the mostly middle-class makeup of voters in Jakarta would not be influenced by such campaigning. However, as of August, they have become concerned with negative campaigning. “So it was quickly decided to prepare measures to cut off those issues,” said one campaign team member.
During the recent fasting month, Jokowi and his family performed the minor pilgrimage to Mecca known as umrah. He disagreed that this trip to Islam’s main holy land was connected with the campaign for governor. “It is more excellent to perform the umrah during the fasting month,” he said.
Nevertheless, photo’s of Jokowi on the umrah were disseminated around Jakarta. In a greeting card celebrating the end of fasting holiday of Lebaran, a photo of Jokowi and family can be seen with Mecca in the background. This Mayor of Solo has also been visiting many influential habib (religious figures of Arabic descent) in Jakarta. This has been going on quietly, being done nights after visiting the different neighborhoods.
Early last August, Jokowi met Habib Abdurahman bin Syech Alattas in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta. He also met Habib Munzir, a leader of the Majelis Rasulullah, who was being treated at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital.
Met on Wednesday last week, Jokowi said he is unaffected by the negative campaigning regarding religion. “I pray in the mosques, and no one has asked about that. Why should I be bothered by it?”
The religion issue has been much more of a disturbance for Jokowi-Basuki compared to the support of the Gerindra Party and Prabowo Subianto, which has been a focus of the middle class. On a social networking website, support for Prabowo—who is thought to have been involved in some human rights violations—is being used as reason not to vote for Jokowi. The reason is, Prabowo will take advantage of Jokowi to get more votes in the next presidential election in 2014.
One survey shows that Prabowo’s support has not had a significant influence on potential votes for Jokowi-Basuki. The case of the abduction of university students in 1997 was not a main concern for voters. Only about 24 percent of respondents said they had ever heard the opinion that Prabowo was behind that crime.
Of the few respondents who said they ever heard that Prabowo was considered to be responsible for those abductions, a total of 66 percent of those respondents said that Jokowi-Basuki were still vote-worthy. Another 26 percent said they were not worth voting for, and 7.5 percent said that they did not know.
Jokowi himself said that from the outset he had said to Prabowo, and also to PDIP Chairperson Megawati Sukarnoputri, that his promise was only to bring “change to Jakarta.” “I asked for independence in carrying out by duties,” he said.
Setri Yasra, Aditya Budiman, Ananda Teresa, Amandra Mustika