On Monday evening (09/06), the first debate between Indonesia’s two presidential candidates (joined by their running mates) was held and broadcast live on national television by various Indonesian television stations. This debate is the first in a series of five debates in which both teams - Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo and Jusuf Kalla vs Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa - are able to share their vision and mission to the Indonesian electorate. The debate immediately became a trending topic on social media.
The debate, which was moderated by Gadjah Mada University (UGM) lecturer and anti-corruption activist Zainal Arifin Mochtar, involved six segments with as basic theme ‘development of Indonesian democracy, good governance, and rule of law’.
However, it is interesting to take a brief look first at the clothes that both teams wore. The Jokowi-Kalla pair were dressed in modern (western) black suits with red ties, whereas the Subianto-Rajasa pair wore the traditional safari shirt (with a red Garuda logo, the national symbol of Indonesia) in combination with a peci. A peci is a hat which is often worn by Muslims in formal situations. However, in Indonesia this hat is also associated with the nationalist secular movement led by Soekarno (1901-1970), Indonesia’s first president. In fact, the whole outfit that Subianto-Rajasa wore (during the debate but also when officially announcing the pair’s participation in the presidential race last month) was similar to the outfit that was often worn by Soekarno, in an obvious attempt to resemble Indonesia’s national hero. Besides the fact it may increase popularity (as Soekarno is still a widely respected figure today), it can also be an attempt of Prabowo Subianto to distance himself from Suharto (Indonesia’s second president) as the former was not only an important puppet in the authoritarian New Order regime of Suharto (being a high army officer) but also son-in-law to Suharto (Subianto was married to Suharto’s daughter Siti Hediati, better known as "Titiek"). It is a well-known fact that Suharto’s New Order regime was imbued with corruption, particularly the small circle around Suharto, including Subianto. As the authoritarian Suharto regime is the complete opposite of the country’s current democratization process, it is of strategic importance for Subianto to distance himself from his New Order-past.
In the first segment of the debate, both teams were able to present their vision and mission. Both teams stressed the importance of improving the current state of democracy in southeast largest economy. For Subianto democracy is a tool to reach welfare for the Indonesian people, while Jokowi stressed the need for the government to listen to the people’s voices. Both teams agreed that pluralism should be respected and discrimination (in whatever form) should be fought against. Both teams also stressed the importance of respecting the Indonesian law. Jokowi added that the control on law enforcement is a specific matter which needs attention and improvement.
Probably the most interesting part of the debate was the fourth segment when both teams could ask each other questions (through moderator Zainal Arifin Mochtar). Jusuf Kalla, vice-presidential candidate and running mate of Jokowi, took the opportunity to ask how Prabowo Subianto can resolve cases of human rights violations that occurred in the past and how he can safeguard the protection of human rights in the future. This question was clearly directed at Subianto’s possible involvement (as army leader) in human rights violations in Jakarta 1998 (when Indonesian students who demonstrated against the Suharto regime were abducted and killed) or his involvement in human rights violations in East Timor in the 1980s. Subianto replied by stating that (not referring to any specific case) - in order to protect a nation as a whole - it is sometimes required to take harsh actions against violent dissidents. This part was the most tense part of the debate and the moderator had to intervene when Jusuf Kalla and Prabowo Subianto started to communicate directly (and heatedly) to each other (instead of communicating through the moderator) but none of the participants lost their cool.
When reading the Indonesian newspapers that were published on Tuesday morning (10/06) and online news portals as well as people’s reaction on social media, there seems to be a preference to proclaim the Jokowi-Kalla pair as winners of the first debate. Whereas the Subianto-Rajasa pair answered most topics through uttering generalizations and normative speech, the Jokowi-Kalla pair answered more concretely while citing their proven track records in dealing with certain issues.
The second debate (out a series of five) will be held next week. On 9 July 2014, the Indonesian people will vote for the country’s next president.
The fragment above shows part of the debate. From 14:34 onwards Subianto replies Kalla's question about human rights violations (Indonesian language only).