President Jokowi and the 2014 Obor Rakyat Controversy in Indonesia

Author: Adam Tyson and Budi Purnomo


During the 2014 presidential election in Indonesia two diametrically opposed candidates appeared to abide by an informal set of rules whereby neither challenged the other's integrity in public. Privately, however, campaign advisors devised ways to attack their opponents, primarily by using media contacts to spread rumors and allegations. As a result, the 2014 presidential race in the world's third largest democracy was the most negative and polarizing since the fall of Suharto's authoritarian regime in 1998. The Obor Rakyat media scandal, a major political event in 2014 that remains understudied, represented a new manifestation of rumor politics and smear campaigning aimed at President Jokowi, widely hailed as a novel reformist politician because of his relatively clean record and lack of direct association with the Indonesian political establishment. In particular, the Obor Rakyat reports made three serious allegations against Jokowi: that he is a bad Muslim, that he is a puppet president, and that he is in the pocket of Chinese financiers known as cukong.

Countries: Indonesia

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© Arthur Jones, PhD