Election fever hits Indonesia as candidates polarize netizens

Election fever hits Indonesia as candidates polarize netizens

INDONESIA - For those Indonesians uninterested in politics, logging in to Facebook or Twitter is a frustrating experience these days.

"I've limited my newsfeed to close friends," Ira Hairida, a blogger from Palembang, South Sumatra, wrote on her Facebook wall. She said she was tired of people posting political statuses and verbally attacking the presidential contenders.

The country is experiencing its most polarizing presidential election ever, with Indonesians, mainly those with Internet access, sharply divided between the soft-spoken entrepreneur Joko "Jokowi Widodo, and the strong-willed former general Prabowo Subianto.

Ira said the zealous campaigning of both camps had overstepped the mark. "[Their attitude is] you're either with us or against us."

The Internet has undeniably become the main battlefield for politicians in their quest to seek public support.

With only a few weeks until the election on July 9, hard-core supporters of both contenders are spending more time online either promoting or refuting scathing information about their candidates on the Internet.

Politicawave, a site monitoring political conversation on social media - Twitter, Facebook, blogs, online forums, online news and YouTube - said the Internet was a hotbed for vibrant debate on the election due to the nature of the Internet.

"On social media, a tweet can be shared [easily and quickly]. So it's easier and faster to spread," Politicawave director Yose Rizal told The Jakarta Post over the weekend. That was why the Internet was also the perfect place to spread rumours and lies, he added.

Yose cited the recent rumour circulating on social media outlets, which said Jokowi was a Christian of Chinese descent. "It prompted many people to look for information on Jokowi's religion via Google," Yose said.

Jokowi has refuted such claims, saying he has always been a Muslim, but those versed in the dark arts of the smear campaign upped their game by publishing what appeared to be a marriage certificate and an obituary advertisement purportedly showing Jokowi's real name as Herbertus Handoko Joko Widodo or Oey Hong Liong.

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