Black Campaigning of Obor Rakyat

Ahead of the election there has been an increase in black campaigning against both presidential candidates. As media in Indonesia are mostly politically connected (privately-owned by politicians or by important players on the political landscape) such campaigning can be expected.

In recent weeks, Indonesian tabloid ‘Obor Rakyat’ published a series of libellous content aimed to hurt the image of Jokowi. For example, the tabloid claimed that Jokowi is not a Muslim but a Chinese Christian. The team of Jokowi reported these false allegations to the National Police of Indonesia (Indonesia contains three laws that deal with libel in the context of the presidential election: the Presidential Election Law, General Criminal Law, and Press Law).

Reportedly, the editor in chief of ‘Obor Rakyat’, Setiyardi Budiono, is an assistant of incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s special staff for regional development and regional autonomy. However, a spokesman of the president said that Yudhoyono has no connections to the tabloid. A few days ago, the political party of Yudhoyono (Democratic Party, or PD) suddenly decided - and without real reasoning - to support Subianto in his quest to become Indonesia’s next president (previously the party had declared neutrality).

Prabowo Subianto Aims to Take Indonesia Back to an Authoritarian Regime?

Since two weeks, news started to spread that Subianto (a former crony of President Suharto who led a +30 years authoritarian regime marked by corruption and suppression) would prefer another authoritarian regime instead of the current system of democracy. These news stories started after award winning American journalist Allan Nairn revealed contents of two off-the-record interviews with Subianto conducted in 2001. In these interviews, Subianto said that “Indonesia is not ready for democracy” but instead needs “a benign authoritarian regime” due to the country’s diversity of religions, ethnicities and cultures. In the interviews Subianto also spoke of his admiration for General Pervez Musharraf, who imposed dictatorship in Pakistan. Subianto continued: “Do I have the guts. Am I ready to be called a fascist dictator? Musharraf had the guts.”

Nairn also revealed that former army general Subianto stated that he was supported by the US intelligence service until Subianto fell out of power after the fall of Suharto in 1998 (when allegedly the USA switched sides and started to support military commander - and Subianto rival - Wiranto). Allegedly, the USA began criticizing Subianto for the latter’s involvement in the abduction, disappearance and presumed deaths of pro-democracy activists in 1998. Ever since, the relationship between Subianto and the USA has been strained (leading to the denying of Subianto to enter the USA).

Tensions between Subianto and the USA grew after current US ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake Jr recently said that the Indonesian government should investigate Subianto’s past, specifically his alleged involvement in human rights violations in Jakarta and East Timor as army leader.

Furthermore, over the weekend, Indonesian media focused on a speech that Subianto gave in Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki on Saturday in which he confirmed that the system of democracy, particularly direct elections, is a western system that does not match with Indonesian culture. However, in a meeting with foreign ambassadors on Monday (30/07), Subianto stated that he would never undermine Indonesia’s democratic process. However, several analysts are sceptic about Subianto’s words to the ambassadors. Research Director at Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting said, quoted in Indonesian newspaper Jakarta Globe, that “In front of ambassadors and foreigners, of course he will say that he is pro-democracy, because he wants to have good relations with them.”

Wealth of the Candidates

It is stipulated by Indonesian law that both presidential and vice presidential candidates have to report their assets to the General Elections Commission (KPU), and which are further verified by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This law was made in the era of Reformation in order to support transparency and curb corruption. On Tuesday (01/07), these data were released to the public. As expected Subianto is the richest candidate among the four with a total of USD $148 million in wealth (consisting of share ownership in 26 companies, four houses, eight cars, and artworks and antiques). Jokowi, a former furniture entrepreneur, is the least wealthy among the candidates with USD $2.5 million in assets (consisting of 24 houses, 12 cars, and assets in bank accounts). Meanwhile, Subianto’s running mate Hatta Rajasa has a total of USD $2.6 in assets (consisting of 14 houses, securities, jewellery and artworks). Lastly, Jusuf Kalla, a renowned entrepreneur and Jokowi’s running mate, owns USD $40.2 million in assets (consisting of share ownership in 13 companies, 51 property units, four cars and assets in bank accounts).