Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Indonesian Fourth and Fifth Presidential Debate

First of all, my analysis of the fourth debate can be found on the Conversation website. Yes, I am supposed to also put it here, but somehow, I've delayed in dealing with it in the past couple of days, because I was hoping to write another take on the fourth presidential debate. Then I realize that this is the main reason for my procrastination:
The debate was so boring that I almost fell asleep writing my tweets. Toward the end of the debate, I even declared:
Seriously, Hatta Rajasa won due to his focus on substance, e.g. using statistics. Jusuf Kalla, who was seen as a favorite, was a total disappointment, as he rambled incoherently most of the time.

The fifth and the last presidential debate between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo and their running mates, Hatta Rajasa and Jusuf Kalla, was a fresh breath of air. It was very energetic, with both camps using this last occasion to needle their opponents. More importantly, an hour after the debate, the campaigning season was essentially over: everyone had to get rid of their campaigning signs, etc. Thus, the debate was the last chance for both candidates to fire up their bases in preparation for the election that will take place on Wednesday, July 9.

In general, both candidates's strategies to deal with the questions at hand remained the same as the previous four debates. Prabowo and Hatta focused mostly on the strategic level, the big picture. For example, when they were asked on how to balance economic growth and economic equality with protecting the environment, Prabowo at first talked about the problem of Indonesia's huge population growth, that the economy must grow fast enough to provide enough jobs. Thus, in his view, we have to be realistic: Indonesia needs high economic growth to give employment to these people, which can lead to economic equality, but at the same time, it needs also to educate people on the need to protect environment.

On the other hand, Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla focused mostly on the tactical level. For instance, in a question regarding the problem with liberalization in agriculture, Jokowi stressed the need for the government to not only tell farmers what to do, but to provide them incentives, so that farmers are actually willing to produce more (such as by providing incentives for the investors to invest in the processing industry, which in turn provides the market for the farmers).

In the question and answer session, however, Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla struck hard on Prabowo. First, Jusuf Kalla again raised the question of self-sufficiency in rice production, which was answered by Hatta Rajasa using his reply last week, that Indonesia actually was already self-sufficient; Indonesia only imports when production drops due to extreme weather and (bizarrely) the demand from the foreigners in Indonesia. Which led to this snide remark:

[As a foreigner, I am really thankful for Mr. Hatta for importing rice especially for us.] --Daniel Ziv
Though, Prabowo saved the day by stressing that he was always against rice importation and, in a jab to Jusuf Kalla, stated that his opposition was such that he was actually admonished by Jusuf Kalla. Whether that piece of anecdote was true or not, Prabowo managed to change the topic.

But later, again Prabowo and Hatta made blunders that were easily used by Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla for attack fodder, notably when Prabowo noted that in a past speech in Indramayu, Jokowi was heard saying he was against cooperatives -- which Jokowi retorted "you must have misheard," and then used the question as a launching pad for his programs to increase productivity of villages. But the confusion didn't end there. Later, Hatta Rajasa compounded the damage by noting that the cities Jokowi governed (Jakarta and Solo) never won any Kalpataru award, which Jusuf Kalla then bluntly smacked back by stating that Hatta got the award wrong, it was Adipura, not Kalpataru, with Jokowi adding that Solo actually won a Green City award.

Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla's biggest coup, however, was when they noted that Prabowo had ranted against the influence of criminal mafia, questioning to whom Prabowo was referring because nobody in their camp were criminals. While Prabowo was struggling to answer, Jusuf Kalla used the opportunity to implicitly remind people that parties supporting Prabowo, notably the PKS (Prosperous and Justice Party), Golkar, Partai Demokrat, and PPP (United Development Party) were already embroiled in scandals and were already investigated by the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission). Jusuf Kalla even asked Prabowo to look at vested interests in Indonesia who had shares in mining companies, notably Freeport and Newmont, which are currently embroiled in contract negotiation with the Indonesian government.

By the end of the debate, it was clear that Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla dominated the debate, especially in the question and answer part. With the election only days away, such morale boost is needed by Jokowi's camp, especially with bad news piling up, notably due to the incompetence of his campaign team.

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