One month before the world’s largest Muslim democracy, chooses a new president, pollsters say an Indonesian tabloid’s “black campaign” is evidence of a concerted effort to discredit the leading candidate. Independent pollster Politicawave has found that Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Jusuf Kalla had been the subject of 94.9 percent of slander, while rivals Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa were the subject of a minimal amount. In the past few months, questions have been raised in the nation’s press about Jokowi’s ethnicity, race and religion, along with allegations of corruption. One report even went as far as to claim Jokowi had died.
Jokowi – a one time little-known furniture retailer, whose stock began to rise in 2005 when he became mayor of the central Javanese city of Solo and is now favorite for the presidency – led rival Subianto by more than 10 percent in Indonesian Survey Circle polls conducted after this week’s presidential debate. Analysts said Jokowi appeared to score more points in the two-hour long debate, but no killer blows.
Subianto is a businessman and heavily decorated lieutenant general, having headed the country’s oppressive special forces under General Suharto 16 years ago.
Among recent efforts to disturb Jokowi’s run are a series of anonymous tabloid-style newspapers that have been sent to 23,000 Islamic boarding schools (Pesantren) run by the Nahdlatul Ulama – a traditionalist Sunni Islam group. Each Pesantren accommodates at least 100 students – in all a large political voice.