Debat calon presiden ke empat, 30 Maret 2019. Bagus Indahono/EPA

Experts respond to Indonesia’s 4th round of presidential debate: Jokowi defeats Prabowo

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his challenger Prabowo Subianto retook the stage for the fourth presidential debate. Just a few weeks before election day on April 17, Jokowi and Prabowo discussed the topics of ideology, foreign policy, defence, and administration.

We contacted four academics to provide analysis of the candidates’ plans and their answers to questions raised in the debate. We also asked them which candidates won with more solid arguments. According to them, the overall winner in this debate is Jokowi.


How is that different from indoctrination?

Yohanes Sulaiman, Lecturer in International Relations, Universitas Jendral Achmad Yani (UNJANI)

In general, this debate was an improvement from the previous debates. It was less boring and a bit unpredictable. Both candidates used the debate to launch counterattacks to each other’s negative campaign, while at the same time, they both threw new attack materials to the mix, while happily smiling at each other.

By the end of the night, one got the feeling that the debate was a waste of time in term of substance: nothing new was being offered to answer the problems facing Indonesia in security and foreign policy aspects. Unlike the 2014 Presidential debate, there was no real discussion on military policies and no new ideas in foreign policy, such as the Global Maritime Fulcrum, which was not mentioned at all.

From the start, Prabowo came out swinging, declaring that he was supporting Pancasila and a bit later in the question and answer section with Jokowi; he denounced the accusations that he was supporting an Islamic Caliphate and nicely asking if Jokowi agreed with those accusations. Instead of answering it, Jokowi pulled a “whataboutism” and stating that he was also accused of being a communist, and instead of getting riled, he simply ignored them and asked Prabowo to teach them by showing good examples.

And at the same time, the debate did not answer the main question: how to educate Pancasila without indoctrinating people. Neither Jokowi nor Prabowo answered the question. They played one-upmanship instead: “We should educate our children about Pancasila from the pre-school. No, it should be from early childhood education.” How is that different from indoctrination? Moreover, while “teaching them by example” is probably the best approach, in the end, that is the expected answer. Nobody is going to say openly to the public that they don’t want to teach Pancasila.

This debate would be excellent if both candidates were instead being asked about the growing popularity of the idea of an Islamic caliphate, and how to deal with it. So far it is an ideology that declares that every ill in the world could be solved by a caliphate. The people who support this idea, however, lacked in substance in telling how the caliphate works and how it could solve problems. They, instead, answer critics by denouncing their lack of faith. At the same time, according to a recent survey, more than a third of students of Islamic studies support caliphate. How to deal with this problem?

The government and the military are still more concerned regarding the threat from communism even though the ideology has been thoroughly discredited with the failure and collapse of communist regimes. So, why the complete fixation toward communist threat? That is a question that should have been asked.

Winner of this session: None

This session of the debate on ideology was a tie between Jokowi and Prabowo. While the losers were the general public for not getting the questions they deserve. But overall if we include the other topic sessions, Jokowi won–by points, no knock out blow. While more entertaining than Jokowi, Prabowo’s attacks were too general, lacking in substance, and thus Jokowi managed to swat them down easily.


Candidates skip over fundamental issues on bureaucratic reform

Wahyudi Kumorotomo, Professor of Masters in Public Administration, Gadjah Mada University

Unlike the second debate (February 17) when Jokowi went on offence and attacked Prabowo over land ownership of hundreds of thousands of hectares in East Kalimantan and Aceh, in this debate Prabowo attacked Jokowi.

Prabowo repeatedly criticised the Jokowi government for allowing foreign entities to own assets and control investments. He also slammed the high level of corruption by regional heads which resulted in a large leak of state money, and many sycophants within the government system.

But this debate did not touch on a number of other issues that are quite fundamental in reforming the public bureaucracy in Indonesia. The acute problem is, for example, the poor recruitment system of the state civil apparatus, the low professionalism in the public service, and the high level of irregularities and corruption among government officials.

It is difficult to argue that political intervention that is too deep in public organisations (ministries and state institutions) is not the cause of the problem. Political interference does not only occur at the central level such as the influence of political parties in the placement of Echelon I officials in ministries whose ministers are from political parties. A similar thing also happened at the regional level. There have been former members of campaign teams entering the ranks of the regional government once the new governor or regent/mayor was elected.

Provisions in Law No. 5 of 2014 concerning State Civil Apparatus which places regional heads as supervisors for staffing in the regions should be amended, to return this function to professional bureaucratic officials, in this case, the Regions’ Secretary.

Some of the problems of sycophancy problems expressed in Prabowo’s criticism and the politicisation of the bureaucracy that made public organisations less professional indeed came from the weak point of the construction of this law. Whoever is elected president should be able to overcome these problems if he wants Indonesia to be able to compete better.

Winner of this session: Jokowi

The lottery questions chosen by the panellists are indeed relatively beneficial for Jokowi. They involved social governance, government system reform that Jokowi always emphasised on since becoming the Governor of DKI Jakarta. Jokowi was able to speak eloquently to explain smart governance with various applications (e-procurement, online services, e-budgeting). E-governance can increase community efficiency and productivity, suppress costs, make it more difficult of bureaucrats to have opportunities to embezzle money, and at the same time increase national competitiveness.

The government should continue to expand online public services that have succeeded in increasing bureaucratic efficiency. Prabowo’s criticism that the online service system will only result in increased foreign interference is not relevant. The theme of the debate is not about economic investment. It has also been proven everywhere that efficient government bureaucracy is a benchmark for the strength of the competitiveness of the national economy.


Focused on defence budget and industry, politics of civil-military relations ignored

Tangguh Chairil, Lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Bina Nusantara University

On the topic of defence, Jokowi focused on the issue of the defence industry, while Prabowo focused on the defence budget. Meanwhile, there was no mention about the issue of TNI personnel involvement in civil institutions.

Prabowo criticised Indonesia’s defence budget (4.4% of total government expenditure, or under 1% of GDP) by comparing it with Singapore’s (30% of total government expenditure, or around 3.3% of GDP), arguing it is not sufficient.

Jokowi did not debate Prabowo’s data. He had planned to raise the defence budget to 1.5% of GDP since running in 2014. However, this had been difficult to implement because of the slow GDP growth and the high budget deficit.

Instead, Jokowi claimed to have focused on investing in the defence industry to fulfil defence requirement under a limited budget. Indeed, Indonesia had finished developing medium tank with Turkey and is finishing its first locally made submarine after receiving technology transfer from South Korea.

Notably lacking from the debate was the discourse of TNI personnel involvement in civilian institutions, which civil society organisations dubbed the rise of TNI dwifungsi (dual function – New Order regime’s doctrine justifying military personnel positions in all levels of government).

Winner of this session: Jokowi

Despite his experience as a former military general, I see most of Prabowo’s arguments were style over substance. He had good points on the defence budget, but his elaboration lacked focus. Meanwhile, Jokowi has a slightly better understanding of substance as the incumbent.


Jokowi understands Indonesia’s position and strengths in a global context

Atin Prabandari, Lecturer in International Relations, Gadjah Mada University

In their vision and mission presentations, Prabowo was too general, less concrete, and too normative. Meanwhile, Jokowi was able to identify the current global political context well, including economic protectionism carried out by some countries to protect their own country’s economic interests but harm other countries.

Jokowi also managed to convey the concept of Indonesia’s independent and active foreign policy, translating it as an effort to freely fight for national interests and be active in participating in world peace.

Prabowo’s explanation, meanwhile, was incorrect. Prabowo oversimplified independent and active foreign policy as an attitude of playing nice with everyone.

Jokowi can also answer the panellists’ questions about Indonesia’s strength in international diplomacy. He mentioned as a country that has the largest Muslim population in the world Indonesia played a key role in supporting the resolution of religious conflicts in Muslim-majority areas such as Rakhine, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Prabowo said that the primary function of Indonesia’s foreign policy is to achieve its national interests. But Prabowo seems to play down the role of soft power _ and diplomacy as an instrument to promote it.

The candidates did not discuss two important issues on foreign policy: 1. Diplomacy on unresolved border issues. 2. Maritime diplomacy as an archipelagic country that has a vast sea and has a vision as a World Maritime Axis

Winner of this session: Jokowi

Jokowi mastered the concepts and principles of foreign policy and diplomacy. Jokowi also understands the global political context and can identify it before determining Indonesia’s position and steps. This might be due to Jokowi’s status as an incumbent, giving him the experience in carrying out foreign policy and diplomacy policies.

This article was originally published in Indonesian