Jokowi and Prabowo trade blows as election nears

Jokowi and Prabowo trade blows as election nears
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after a debate in Jakarta June 15, 2014.

The battle between Gerindra Party presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) candidate, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, is intensifying as election day draws near, with both camps working hard to attack, fend off counter-attacks and avoid any mishaps.

On Friday, Jokowi's legal team held talks with the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), urging the agency to question Prabowo and members of his campaign team over the alleged distribution of letters to promote the candidacy of the Gerindra Party chief patron to state schools.

Responding to the demand, Bawaslu commissioner Nelson Simanjuntak said the individuals responsible for the letters, which featured Prabowo's signature and his vision and mission statements, could be slapped with administrative sanctions.

"If the letters were sent to teachers' personal addresses, then there would be no violation," he told reporters on Friday.

Nelson said that Bawaslu is currently carrying out an investigation into who devised the scheme.

"The most difficult aspect [of the investigation] is to find out who really sent them," he said. "Of course we do not accuse Pak Prabowo writing personally of the letter."

Spokesman for Prabowo's campaign team Tantowi Yahya said that the sending of the letters was a collective decision made by the six political parties within the Gerindra coalition.

Tantowi said that Bawaslu had the authority to decide if his camp had violated the election law by sending the letters.

Prabowo's campaign team leader, Mahfud MD, also said that the letters did not violate any campaign regulation.

It was the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) secretary-general, Retno Listyarti, who raised the red flag and filed a complaint with Bawaslu .

Retno said the letters were sent last week to several state schools in Jakarta, including senior high schools SMAN 76, SMAN 75 and SMK 56 vocational senior high school, as well as a number of private schools, including SMK Poncol in Sumur Batu, Central Jakarta.

The letters were also found in Depok, West Java and Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta.

In recent days, Prabowo's camp has been put on the defensive following the circulation of a Nazi-themed music video, a tribute to Prabowo shot by one of his supporters, rock singer Ahmad Dhani.

Following the international uproar created by the video, Prabowo's camp has been trying to downplay the controversy, urging the public not to exaggerate the issue.

Gerindra Party deputy chairman Fadli Zon said that the public should not compare Prabowo with Nazi leadership since Indonesia had no history of fascism.

"People are overreacting. I think people are smart enough to understand the real situation," he said, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Fadli said the country should be more concerned with communism than Nazism.

"From early on, I have been against communism, a fierce utopian ideology that caused the murder of 100 million people on the planet," Fadli said earlier in a tweet from his twitter handle, @fadlizon.

Meanwhile, on Friday both Prabowo and Jokowi continued their campaigns with stops in West Java and East Java, respectively.

In Cirebon, Prabowo met with Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of the country's largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

In the meeting, Said Aqil praised Prabowo, saying that he was a religious person and would not stray from Muslim values if elected president.

Jokowi, meanwhile, declined the offer to deliver a speech during a Friday prayer inside the Baiturrahim Mosque in Banyuwangi, East Java.

When Jokowi was given the chance to deliver a speech before the sermon started, he refused to do so, saying that a mosque should not be used for campaigning purposes.

"This is a place of worship. I am not allowed to campaign [here]," he said.

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