Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Monday, June 16, 2014

Quick Analysis on Indonesia's Second Presidential Debate

After Jokowi won last week's presidential debate, he regained part of his previous momentum, and this is evident in the social media chatter. His supporters were far more active, while in turn, Prabowo's supporters were more subdued.

So in last night's presidential debate, it should not come as a surprise that unlike his last week's subdued performance, Prabowo came out swinging, and hit hard. In contrast, Jokowi looked very calm and in fact:
While I think that was part of his attempt to look presidential (and as a front runner), it didn't really help him, as Prabowo pummeled him hard by questioning his programs. For instance, when Jokowi, as usual, underscored what he had done as the head of two cities (Solo and Jogjakarta), showing off his healthcare insurance card that he would use as a template for a national program, Prabowo retorted questioned where Jokowi would get all the money to pay for his programs, which rightly, would increase budget deficit.

At the same time, however, Prabowo also showed his soft side. He looked very polite. He was aggressive, but not hostile, and in fact he later said, "my advisers told me to always disagree with Jokowi. I, however, will support him if he has a good idea" and later he shook Jokowi's hand and hugged him.

Even though Prabowo's economic program itself is actually full of holes (which I will discuss later in this analysis), his decision to go on the offensive during the entire debate made it very difficult for Jokowi to hit him. It was only very later in the debate when Jokowi finally able to attack Prabowo's "one billion rupiah for every village" promise, arguing that it was actually already on the books.

By that time, I already wrote two of my most retweeted tweets in my entire tweeting career:

So, I gave the verdict that Prabowo won the debate, though there were many dissents, with many calling it draw.

And now, here's my take. First of all, consider the optics. Like I mentioned above, Jokowi seemed to not do very well in the first half of debate. It took him some time to get the fire in his belly and react to Prabowo's assaults. While Prabowo looked aggressive, it was fun watching him. At the same time, Prabowo's aggressiveness allowed him to escape unscathed from the holes in his arguments.

Take the example of his plan to transform damaged forests into agricultural bio-fuel producing farmlands. Doesn't that actually create the incentive for people to damage more forests? Ok, that might be a cheap shot. How about this? When he argued that there is "1000 trillion rupiah" leak in the state budget: how did he get the numbers? Is there really any sound analysis that would support his assertion that all his programs could be funded simply by plugging the leaks? More importantly, when Prabowo said that agricultural sector could help reducing unemployment rate significantly, he was wrong. Actually, an efficient, mechanized agricultural sector would reduce the required number of labors. And not to mention:
Meantime, Jokowi's answers in many cases were headscratchers. His declaration that 80% elementary school education should be focused on morality is mind boggling. Granted, this is a red meat issue to his many rural conservative followers, but how does this really prepare the youth for the challenges and needs of modern society? Less math and English and more religious study? And at the same time, he kept advocating an increase in minimum wage, which was fine ONLY if the productivity also increase, and don't think that would be helped by more religious studies.
Aside from the bad economic logic, both sides also focused too much on economic nationalism. True, this is another red meat issue, as people always love economic nationalism and hate those blasted multinational corporations that stole Indonesia's resources. Still, foreign investment is not a "black and white" issue.

On one hand, people are taught that Indonesia is a very rich and fertile nation, whose wealth should be used to make everyone rich. Therefore, foreigners are evil because they steal Indonesian resources and carry them abroad. On the other hand, liberal economists, technocrats, and the government officials know that they need foreign expertise to extract the resources. Without foreign investors willing to take risks in exploring for new resources (e.g. new oil wells), in combination with foreign technology, Indonesia would not be able to gain revenues to pay for its bloated budget.

Thus both Jokowi and Prabowo have to toe a very thin line. They have to keep throwing red meat to their key followers, especially the economic nationalists or, heck, the nationalists in general, while also reassuring investors that there's no risk that they will nationalize everything. As a result, debates are generally very vanilla and the difference between the approaches of both candidates is that Jokowi stresses his micro-economic approach (traditional market, etc) while Prabowo talks about a macro-economic focus.

1 comment:

  1. Prabowo is diplomatic and is able to articulate. Jokowi acts as a city manager and expresses his vision in blurry manner. If Jokowi wants to win, he needs to start acting as a country leader. He is not running for a position to oversee day-to-day operations, rather to make his vision clear, pick those who are able to carry out his vision and report back to him. Meanwhile, he can appoint third-party to neutrally assess the performance of those he picks to execute his vision. He needs to articulate his vision clearly. He needs not delve into details and issues that most people with short memory cannot remember and those with less education cannot understand. Remember short and memorable punches such as: Bill Clinton's 'I feel your pain'; 'it is the economy, stupid'; etc. Learn from the mistakes of Ross Perot who tried to explain complicated economic theories using charts and graphs leaving most people either confused or falling asleep.