Three Talking Points From First Indonesian Presidential Debate

indonesia first presidential debate: Jokowi vs Prabowo. Photo by: Agus Suparto/Setpres

JAKARTA, Indonesia (ViaNews) – Indonesians finally watched the first and most anticipated presidential debate of 2019, which was held on January 17 at Bidakara Hotel. The same presidential candidates but different running mates; Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto would face to face again with their vice presidential candidates, Ma’ruf Amin, and Sandiaga Uno respectively.

The first round of the debate was about law enforcement, human rights, corruption, and terrorism. There were six segments of the discussion. First, both candidates describe their visions and missions for 23 minutes. Then, both candidates provide an in-depth explanation of human rights and legal issues for 15 minutes each. The third segment was when both pairs focus on terrorism and corruption issues. The fourth, fifth, and sixth segments were the most anticipated as both candidates asked and argued against each other.

The presidential debate also ruled in social media. According to a pollster Indonesia Indicator, the incumbent Jokowi and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin dominated Twitter by gaining 2,1 million tweets while Prabowo-Sandiaga pair only got 1,2 million tweets ahead of the debate.

Here are three talking points from the first debate:

  • Both were considered emotional: Political analyst Ubedilah Badrun said both Jokowi and Prabowo tended to be passionate in the discussion, based on voice intonations and choices of words.

Badrun added that Jokowi was emotional as he used offensive terms such as “I am different,” “I disagree” and “It is an allegation.” While Prabowo did not use any offensive remarks, but his voice’s note was a bit high.

  • Ma’ruf Amin did not talk much: This elderly is known as a well-noted Islamic preacher given his reputation as the head of Indonesia’s Ulema Council (MUI). But he is new in politics. Therefore, he let Jokowi dominate the show, and Amin only delivered his thoughts in the last two sections of the debate.

According to the head of the Jokowi-Ma’ruf National Campaign Team (TKN) Erick Thohir, Amin’s less talking time was a part of the team’s strategy. Amin, one of the most respected Moslem’s figures in Indonesia, was tasked to ask and elaborate issues related to terrorism and radicalism.

  • Both candidates had yet to stand out to convince voters: Indonesians reacted after the debate finished, most said that the show was not as exciting as expected.

Both did not present new ideas that can lure voters, and they did not ‘attack’ against each other using their proposed policies or programs.

Prabowo, for example, did not back up his statements with accurate data (when he talked about tax ratio and said that the size of Central Java province is bigger than that of Malaysia), but unfortunately, Jokowi did not strike back as well.

Several political experts said despite missing some data, Prabowo’s public speaking skill is better than that of the incumbent.

Jokowi also forgot to quote the sources of data when he said Prabowo’s Gerindra Party has the highest number of ex-corrupt convicts running as legislative candidates. Based on the data from the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), the Gerindra Party is not the party with the most ex-corrupt convicts’ candidates. But Jokowi may be right if he referred to the General Election Commission (KPU) latest data (as of September 2018) that revealed that the party has six graft-tainted candidates, the highest of all political parties.

Will the first debate affect voters’ choices?

There will be four remaining debates ahead of the April 17 election with topics ranging from energy, economy, to education. The discussions will be crucial for both pairs to introduce their programs as well as lure swing voters who have yet to make up their minds.

A telesurvey carried out by KedaiKOPI in partnership with Katadata Insight Center recorded a change in swing voters’ attitude. A day before the debate, 23,2 percent of 463 respondents said they had yet to decide. After the show, only 9, 4 percent said that they did not make up their choices.
But the Indonesian Institute survey showed that a series of debate did not affect the election outcome in 2014.

What’s next?

The KPU admitted receiving many complaints saying that the debate was less exciting. Therefore, the commission is considering changing the format of the discussion for the next sessions.

“There are many feedbacks. Some said it was good, some complained. There are some who wondered why clues on questions had been leaked to candidates in prior to the show. So, the KPU is still open to change the format of the next debates,” said the head of the KPU, Arief Budiman, at the commission’s office on Friday.

The KPU will determine the format after evaluating the first debate. The election organizer will hold an evaluation meeting on January, 21.

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