Indonesian Election Fever Grips the Nation After Presidential TV Debate

Election Fever Grips the Nation After TV Debate

By Dessy Sagita on 11:11 pm Jun 10, 2014

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, second to left, greets his opponent Joko Widodo, center, next to vice presidential candidates Hatta Rajasa, left, and Jusuf Kalla, right, before their presidential debate in Jakarta on June 9, 2014. (Reuters Photo/Supri)

  1.  Election fever has gripped the nation after the first TV debate between Governor Joko Widodo and former general Prabowo Subianto, flanked by their respective running mates, Jusuf Kalla and Hatta Rajasa, engrossed viewers on Monday night.

Zainal Arifin Mochtar from the Gadjah Mada University’s Anti-Corruption Study Center (Pukat UGM), and the moderator of Monday’s debate, said Indonesia’s fascination with politics and public debate was a new phenomenon.

“This new debate culture is very much needed to shift the nation from ‘emotional democracy’ to rational and proportional democracy, and it takes a long time,” Zainal told the Jakarta Globe.

Throughout the presidential debate, social media users criticized Zainal for his repeated harsh warnings to the audience, who would not stop clapping or screaming out their support for their preferred candidates — many of whom were influential figures, including lawmakers and prominent politicians.

“They were too noisy and would not stop throwing insults at each other, so I had to stop them because they were disrupting the substance the candidates were trying to convey,” Zainal said.

He added that the National Election Commission (KPU) should go further and hold an interactive debate, in which the candidates are given better opportunities to counter each other’s statements.

“The campaign teams from both camps are still too afraid to try out the open debate format, if they are willing to be more relaxed the debate will be so much more alive,” he said.

“However, we have to anticipate excessive sarcasm and harshness against the candidates. Last night things heated up pretty quickly just with simple questions,” Zainal said, referring to when former vice president Jusuf Kalla asked Prabowo about his policy on human rights abuses.

Prabowo — who previously admitted responsibility for kidnapping democracy activists shortly before Suharto’s downfall — lashed out at Kalla with an emotional response, saying that his opponent did not understand the sacrifice made by soldiers acting under orders.

“Our democracy is still crawling, it will need time to grow up, learn and eventually be ready to fight,” Zainal said.

Missed opportunities

Ari Dwipayana, a political observer from Gadjahmada University in Yogyakarta, told the Jakarta Globe that Prabowo and Hatta missed out on the opportunity to outdo Joko and Kalla.

“Prabowo appeared to lack confidence, he made some emotional statements and was unfocused in catching the essence of the questions and answering them,” Ari said.

Ari said Prabowo and Hatta wasted the opportunity to explain their programs and that their rhetoric was unclear.

“Joko defined democracy as the ability to listen to the people’s voice and to provide them with what they want, while Prabowo and Kalla spoke about the importance of having a ‘productive democracy’ and not a ‘destructive’ one — but what does that even mean?” Ari said.

He said both Joko and Kalla managed to elaborate on their ideas with practical examples, while Prabowo and Hatta were stuck on grand ideas, which they failed to prove to be useful.

Ari said Hatta also missed a chance to speak about legal certainty by not giving any concrete evidence, while Joko and Hatta were able to give a credible answer about clean governance by talking about their previous programs, including electronic procurement and electronic budgeting to ensure transparency and accountability.

Ari said the highlight of the night for Joko and Kalla was when the moderator asked them what the political cost of a big coalition would be.

“Prabowo stumbled because he’s indeed trapped in a fat coalition and rumor has it that the agreement between the parties was based on how many cabinet positions they can get,” Ari said.

He said Joko was able to breeze through the question because he has consistently stated that he preferred a slim coalition to ensure the cabinet is filled based on the ministers’ abilities rather than on political horse-trading.

Ari said the biggest blunder for Prabowo and Hatta was to ask Joko and Kalla about regional autonomy and direct elections.

“The question was way too easy for seasoned bureaucrats such as Joko and Kalla, it worked perfectly in their favor,” he said.

However, Nurul Arifin, a spokesman for Prabowo and Hatta, denied that his team lost the debate.

The Golkar party lawmaker said the Monday debate only served as a warm-up session for the pair.

“Like in a boxing match, last night’s debate was only a warming up session where the candidates measured their opponents’ strength,” Nurul said.

Prabowo himself admitted he was a bit nervous.

“I think for the first debate it was quite good, not bad, a little nervous perhaps,” he said afterwards.

Election euphoria

Singer Renno Krisna Dwipayana said this year’s election has changed his mind about politics.

Renno, who used to ignore all political and election updates, found himself glued to the television during the debate.

“As an avid social media user I have seen so much negative propaganda against both camps and that really upset me, so I was really excited to see how the candidates defend themselves,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

Renno said he thought Joko and Kalla were the winners of the debate.

“I think Prabowo and Hatta dug their own graves by asking Joko and Kalla about direct elections and autonomy. It almost seemed like Prabowo-Hatta were letting Joko-Kalla win easily. Hatta even went on to support his opponents’ ideas instead of countering them,” he said.

Rizky Kertanegara, a lecturer at Paramadina University, said Prabowo and Hatta fell short because they underestimated their opponents.

“At first all the candidates appeared nervous, but as time went by Joko and Kalla became more confident while Prabowo and Hatta fell for Kalla’s provocation,” he said.

There are, however, some who believe Prabowo and Hatta came off best.

Dahlan, an entrepreneur, said Joko proved he would only be good as a governor, not as a president.

“His idea about fiscal politics is so backward, it has become more clear that Prabowo will be the best leader,” he said.


Presidential TV Debates to Impact Those Still Undecided

By Josua Gantan on 10:42 pm Jun 10, 2014

Indonesia’s vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa, left, greets presidential candidate Joko Widodo, second from left, while presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, second from right, greets vice presidential candidate Jusuf Kalla, before their presidential debate in Jakarta on June 9, 2014. (Reuters Photo/Supri)

  1.  With the first presidential debate finished, polling experts have offered their assessments of the exchange and its impact on both presidential candidates’ overall electability.

Muhammad Qodari, the executive director from political survey institute IndoBarometer, said presidential candidate Joko Widodo performed better than his rival, Prabowo Subianto. Similarly, Djayadi Hanan, research director from Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, said Joko had the upper hand.

“Joko performed better yesterday night; it is up for debate to what extent, but it is clear that he outplayed [Prabowo],” Djayadi said on Monday.

But to what extent do debates actually improve or worsen any given candidate’s electability?

The impact

Djayadi said the debates were instrumental in convincing those who were still unsure and lacked the information to make up their minds.

Yet recent findings from the Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting show that the majority of those who claim already to be decided on who they will vote for are open to change. In other words, the game is still open.

Djayadi said that 25 percent of voters who claim to have chosen their candidate may change their mind — swing voters, he calls them — while 15 percent of the electorate remain undecided.

“If the debate influences those people, then it has real potential to change the electability of both candidates,” Djayadi said.

Qodari said the debate was important in terms of solidifying the support that both candidates already had.

“To me it is more to give confirmation for those who have already made a decision,” Qodari said.

Djayadi said that “usually, presidential debates only affirm to those who have already made up their mind to vote for a particular candidate.”

Qodari pointed out that the debate had only a limited reach and audience.

“Those from the lower- to lower-middle-class backgrounds generally wouldn’t have watched it,” he said.

Qodari also argued that what candidates actually did was far more instrumental in boosting their electability.

Tight competition

With a diminishing number of undecided voters left, the presidential election is getting more heated.

An Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) poll in May reported that Prabowo was leading over Joko in Jakarta — where Joko serves as governor — and Banten.

“In Jakarta, Prabowo-Hatta had 35 percent while Joko-Kalla had 30.66 percent,” LSI researcher Rully Akbar said last Wednesday.

Out of 33 provinces, LSI identified seven strategic provinces deemed to be the “real battlefield”: Jakarta, Banten, West Java, East Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi and North Sumatra.

“So far, Joko is still in the lead, but the disparity is getting smaller and smaller compared with one month ago,” Djayadi said.

“Our estimate for now is that the difference between the two is about 8 to 12 percent. But is this going to be the trend for the next few weeks? It is not certain. There is a very tight competition between these two. The eventual difference in voting is very likely to be less than 10 percent.”

Taking debates seriously

While Joko appeared to have thoroughly planned and researched his statements for Monday’s debate, his opponent seemed to have taken a more casual approach.

“Joko and Kalla were clearly more prepared, while Prabowo and Hatta’s performance seemed to lack signs of planning. Joko took the debate more seriously. Prabowo, on the other hand, could almost be called apathetic,” Djayadi said.

Mahfud M.D., Prabowo’s campaign manager, previously claimed that Prabowo did not prepare as he was used to debating and was confident of winning.

“If he made preparations, then it might come across as unnatural, too made up. So we just leave it be,” Mahfud said last Sunday, the day before the debate.

On the other hand, Joko had prepared seriously for the debate, acquiring the help of political and legal experts such Ari Dwipayana and Andrinof Chaniago from the University of Indonesia and lawyer Alexander Lay.

Far from climax

There is no doubt that the high point of yesterday’s debate was when Prabowo responded emotionally to Kalla’s question about his track record on human rights.

“That issue is something that makes him [Prabowo] really uncomfortable. That is why when that came up, he got emotional like that,” Djayadi said.

But the battle is far from its climax. Djayadi said Prabowo had not brought out his best arguments against Joko — principally the accusation that the latter is merely a puppet for Megawati Soekarnoputri, the former president and current Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman.

Prabowo has also not used the option of pointing out that there are figures in Joko’s camp with human rights records that are just as checkered as his own.

One thing is certain: the competition between Joko and Prabowo will only get more intense.


Presidential Debate May Have Swayed Undecided Voters, Survey Shows

By SP/Carlos Paath & Erwida Maulia on 09:05 am Jun 11, 2014

Jakarta. A significant number of constituents may no longer belong to the large group of swing voters after having been swayed to finally choose one candidate after Monday night’s first televised presidential debate of this season, according to a poll result.

A survey conducted by poll institute Cyrus Network from May 25 to 31 showed as many as 80 percent of respondents told interviewers they would have loved to watch the debate, which was broadcasted live on several local TV stations.

A total of 58.5 percent of those who did witness the dialogue said it wouldn’t change their electoral preference, while a fairly considerable portion — 33 percent — said otherwise.

“Both presidential candidates should make use of this opportunity to either widen the voting gap, or narrow it,” Cyrus director Hasan Nasbi said while announcing the survey results in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Cyrus’ latest poll found that Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and his running mate Jusuf Kalla still led the race with nearly 54 percent of votes — compared with Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa who secured 41 percent.

However, these figures reflect the preference of voters at the time of the interview, which was two weeks ago — leaving ample time for the Indonesian people to change their minds.

For the actual voting day, which is set for July 9, Cyrus predicts the Joko-Kalla ticket to see a slight rise in support, securing 56.6 percent of votes, compared to Prabowo-Hatta’s 43.5 percent.

“Undecided voters accounted for 3.5 percent [of respondents], while 1.8 percent declined to answer,” Hasan added.

The survey involved 1,500 participants from 33 provinces in Indonesia, with a 2.6 percent margin of error.

Cyrus Network’s number of undecided voters is considerably lower than the figure found by Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) during a poll the latter held three weeks prior — from May 1 to 9.

LSI data saw Joko-Kalla gain the lead but with only 35 percent of votes, while Prabowo-Hatta collected 23 percent and undecided voters accounted for a whopping 42 percent of respondents.

“Both teams have a chance to win, because 42 percent of voters are undecided,” LSI researcher Adjie Alfaraby last month.

Another survey by LSI suggested that Joko-Hatta would most likely win the race in five out of seven provinces the poll institute dubbed as “strategic territories.”

Respondents of the survey conducted in early May — though the results were only announced last week — favored Joko-Kalla over rivals Prabowo-Hatta in West Java, Central Java, East Java, North Sumatra and South Sulawesi. Central Java and South Sulawesi are considered a shoe-in for the pair, given that the former is a traditional stronghold of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) — Joko’s political vehicle — while the latter is Kalla’s hometown.

Prabowo-Hatta, meanwhile, conquered Jakarta and Banten.

“LSI identifies these provinces as a real battlefield for the candidates — a determining win factor,” the polling institute said in a press statement on June 4. “Some 70 percent of the nation’s eligible voters reside in these seven provinces.”


First Presidential Debate Lacked Conclusive Knockout Blow, Analyst Says

By Giacomo Tognini on 08:30 am Jun 11, 2014

Jakarta. Monday night’s presidential debate electrified an already close race as candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo faced off over corruption, human rights and governance issues.

Indonesians active on Twitter seem to have anointed Joko — popularly known as Jokowi — as victor of the first of five debates, as his calm and confident demeanor contrasted with Prabowo’s sometimes aggressive tone.

Despite a narrowing gap between the two competitors, Jokowi has maintained a commanding lead over his rival, which is reflected by recent polls showing him and running mate Jusuf Kalla garnering 49 percent support over 39 percent gained by Prabowo and his vice presidential candidate, Hatta Rajasa.

Some political analysts, however, believe the presidency is still very much up for grabs, according to Awidya Santikajaya, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University who holds degrees in international economics and Southeast Asian politics. Awidya has also worked at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry since 2006 with the goal of further developing relations with American and European countries.

“Both pairs have performed relatively well in the debate, better than many expected,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

The analyst continued by elaborating on the individual performances of each candidate, echoing other commentators by praising Jokowi and Kalla.

“During the debate, Jusuf Kalla was able to complement Jokowi’s strength, providing him with straightforward and excellent answers”, he said. “Prabowo and Hatta, on the other hand, spent too much time with rhetoric.”

Awidya disagreed that any one candidate won outright, saying that “there were no knockout blows in the debate.”

Four more debates are scheduled in the four weeks leading up to the July 9 presidential election, on issues ranging from the economy to social welfare and energy policy.

The dialogues will provide more opportunities for candidates to “win the hearts of Indonesian voters,” according to Awidya.

The presidential campaign has been characterized by vague statements from both sides, with neither candidate presenting concrete platforms on all issues.

“It will be much better and beneficial for candidates if for the next debates, they elaborate more about practical and feasible programs, rather than normative ones,” Awidya said.


Editorial: Crucial Questions Left Unanswered in Presidential Debate

By Jakarta Globe on 10:28 pm Jun 10, 2014

Nationally televised debates are a golden opportunity for voters to assess the quality of their candidates, confirm their opinions and clear up any lingering doubts. For the candidates themselves, it’s a unique chance to defend themselves against any allegations, clear their name and gain the favor of the public.

The first presidential debate on Monday did none of these things, leaving numerous concerns unaddressed. The content delivered on one side from Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa, and on the other side from Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla was, unfortunately, rather predictable.

Though Kalla deserves praise for confronting Prabowo about his past human rights record, Prabowo, for his part, failed to convince the nation that he deserves a chance at redemption.

In his turn, Prabowo apparently forgot to question Jokowi on the issues that make us doubt him the most: Can Jokowi operate independent of Megawati Soekarnoputri and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)? Or is he just another party member who was told to run for president, who will answer to his predecessor at the end of the day? Will he be the one to decide on the ministers, or will he be a puppet for Megawati’s choices?

We need Jokowi to address Indonesia regarding his independence during a live television debate. We also need to get answers about his political history.

Why did Jokowi run for governor of Jakarta? Why did he step away from his post as the mayor of Solo, only to leave behind unfinished business in the capital two years later?

We still have four more debates to go, so it’s too early to draw any conclusions as of yet. All in all, we hope the two candidates will settle our pressing questions and convince us that they can lead the nation by election day on July 9.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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