JAKARTA, Indonesia (ViaNews) – Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo introduced a new term. “Genderuwo politician” is used to describe politicians who influence people by spreading the propaganda of fear and uncertainty.

“Such politics is unethical; how can [the politicians] frighten their own people? This is called genderuwo politics, [because it] spreads fear,” the president said in Tegal, Central Java last Wednesday.

Genderuwo is known in Javanese mythology as a human-like ghost with muscular figure and body hair.

The term ‘genderuwo politician’ also emerged when the president delivered a speech in the fourth anniversary of the Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI), often dubbed as the millennial party in Tangerang, Sunday (11/11).

“Something from the inside is frightening our young people,” former Jakarta governor claimed.

Deputy of the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin Campaign Team, Asrul Sani, explained that Jokowi’s ‘genderuwo politician’ term refers to a campaign allegedly launched by some people from the opposition camp that triggers fear among society like ‘genderuwo’.

“Yes, Pak Jokowi said that because there are some people whose campaign styles aim at scaring people, genderuwo is a spirit that appears to scare people who see it,” said Sani, a politician from the United Development (PPP) party as reported by Republika.

The use of term ‘genderuwo politicians’ comes following Jokowi’s word ‘sontoloyo’ (meaning foolish) to describe those who do whatever they can to gain voters’ sympathy by attacking their political opponents and creating hate campaigns.

Where is the war of ideas and program?

There has been no arguments and ideas presented by both frontrunners (Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin and Prabowo Subianto-Sandi Uno) about certain issues since the campaign period started on October 23, 2018. Indonesians are being preoccupied with criticism against each other which are not related to vision, mission, and programs introduced by both candidates.

Former Coordinating Minister for Maritime Rizal Ramli said that Jokowi is a humble person who is careful with his statements. Ramli questioned the adviser behind the president as the ‘sontoloyo’ and ‘genderuwo’ terms may be a boomerang to the incumbent.

Sontoloyo vs Boyolali war on online and social media platforms

Both Jokowi and Prabowo once issued a statement considered a blunder. When the latter said ‘Boyolali’s look”, the term was used to illustrate the social gap, not as an insult to the Boyolali town residents. Prabowo later apologized for his remarks.

During the opening of the Prabowo-Sandi Victory Agency in Central Java’s Boyolali, the former son-in-law of former president Soeharto said that Jakarta was packed by skyscrapers and luxury hotels, while the candidate was sure Boyolali residents have never entered those hotels.

“If you try to enter [these hotels], you will probably be kicked out. Your faces are not that of rich people, your faces are just that of Boyolali people. Right?,” Prabowo said, then the crowd responded in laughter.

Some people, however, were not happy with Prabowo’s remark, calling it offensive and insulting. But Feri Juliantono, from the Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno’s campaign team. explained that the original video of Prabowo’s speech had been edited so people tended to misjudge the remarks.

‘Sontoloyo’ and ‘Boyolali’s look’ have also dominated online media outlets for the past few days. Based on a study carried out by researchers at online media outlet Alinea.id, there were 290.912 news pieces about ‘sontoloyo’ remark available on online media organizations, 28.076 news pieces related to that term on printed media outlets, and news about ‘sontoloyo’ appeared 3.988 times on TV. While there were 163.419 news pieces about Boyolali look at online media outlets, 16.148 news materials about that on printed versions, and 2.233 news pieces about the look of Boyolali on TV stations.

Will those blunders affect both candidates’ electability?

According to Poll Tracking Program Strategic Manager, Iqbal Themi, ‘sontoloyo’ and ‘Boyolali’s look’ will not automatically erode both candidates’ electability as such a blunder is not a significant issue that can affect voters from a sociological, psychological, and rational point of view.

He added that vision and programs of both frontrunners can affect rational voters, while issues related to faith or ideology may have significant impacts on sociological voters, and physical issues such as image and appearance can affect voters psychologically.

Another political expert stated that Jokowi’s terms will not affect his electability.

“I do not see the impact (of sontoloyo and genderuwo remarks) on Jokowi’s electability as what he said is reflected in reality, the use of ‘sontoloyo’ word is case closed and as far as I am monitoring, his electability is not affected,” political expert at University of Mercu Buana Maksimus Ramses Lalongkoe.

Yasmin Rasidi
VIaNews Correspondent for Indonesia - I hold a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political science from the National University, Jakarta, Indonesia. I've been a translator for Xinhua News Agency and a contributer for FootballTribeIndonesia, Sportradar, and RTS. Journalist contact: yasminrasidi@vianewsagency.com