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Mud Flung as Indonesia Presidential Race Heats Up

Mud Flung as Indonesia Presidential Race Heats Up

By Randy Fabi on 12:24 pm Jun 22, 2014

Jakarta. One of the two hopefuls in Indonesia’s presidential election has been accused of being a closet Christian, the other of being a foreigner and unfit to lead the nation.

As the race for the presidency tightens, mudslinging between supporters of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and ex-general Prabowo Subianto is increasing, forcing even the police to get involved.

Jokowi’s team asked the police this month to arrest the publisher of a little-known tabloid after it falsely reported that the Muslim governor from the Javanese city of Solo was an ethnic Chinese Christian.

A national police spokesman said authorities were investigating the case against Obor Rakyat, or People’s Torch, a newspaper available in Islamic boarding schools and mosques across Java.

Jokowi has been forced to defend himself against the attacks, which are mainly focused on his race and religion – potent topics in a country that is 95 percent native Indonesian and has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Some opinion polls show that Jokowi’s once huge lead over Prabowo has shrunk to single digits, a rapid decline that pollsters attribute to a successful smear campaign against the frontrunner ahead of the July 9 election.

“People in rural areas and people with middle to lower income and education tend to believe the black campaign (against Jokowi). That is why the electability of Jokowi is decreasing significantly,” said Burhanuddin Muhtadi, the executive director of pollster Indonesian Political Indicator, which surveyed thousands of potential voters on the topic.

Jokowi’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, recently posted a photo on social media showing the candidate among Haj pilgrims in 2003, proof, it said, that he is Muslim.

Meanwhile, some of Jokowi’s supporters have stepped up their own negative campaigning against Prabowo.

Wimar Witoelar, a Jokowi supporter and former spokesman of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, apologised last week for posting on his Twitter and Facebook accounts a picture of Prabowo’s team alongside Osama bin Laden and other militants, according to the Jakarta Post.

Attacks against Prabowo have also included questions about his mental well-being and claims that he is a Jordanian citizen.

But the majority of the negative campaigning has been on Prabowo’s human rights record as a top general, in particular during unrest that brought down his former father-in-law and long-serving autocrat Suharto in 1998.

Wiranto, Prabowo’s former military boss and now a leader of a small party backing Jokowi, has released details of a military council’s findings which said Prabowo had deliberately misinterpreted orders and told troops who were not under his command to arrest political activists.

Wiranto insisted that he was not making the announcement in his capacity as a politician.

Face to face, the two candidates have been the epitome of civility. At two presidential debates, they have hugged and shaken hands and left it to their vice presidential running mates to attack the other.

Muhtadi, from the polling agency, said the attacks on Prabowo’s human rights record were not as effective as the smear campaign against Jokowi because the former general’s past was already largely known.

“Prabowo’s human rights issues are not really influencing voter behavior when compared to the black campaign against Jokowi,” Muhtadi said.

“This is why it is hard to predict who will be the winner in the next election.”

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Indonesian Candidates Debate Defense, Foreign Affairs

By Erwida Maulia & Muhamad Al Azhari on 01:25 am Jun 23, 2014

  1.  In the third televised presidential debate on Sunday night former Army general Prabowo Subianto toned down his previous aggressive stance on international affairs, while rival Joko Widodo indicated that he could show more teeth when required — including when it comes to border disputes and bilateral tensions with Australia.

Prabowo answered questions related to the topic, “International Politics and National Resilience,” rather easily — in line with predictions by some observers who believed he was better equipped on the issues compared with the Jakarta governor.

But he still got stuck on rhetoric, and repeated that Indonesia needed to prevent “leakages” of its natural resources to other countries — which he had mentioned in the previous two debates.
In the debate, which was moderated by Hikmahanto Juwana, a professor of international law at the University of Indonesia, Prabowo’s favorite quotes included “One thousand friends are not enough, one enemy is more than enough.”

Prabowo repeated this at least three times to emphasize his preference for peace and diplomacy over armed conflict. “I want to put first the friendship, the good-neighbor diplomacy. We will always put first politeness, tolerance with other nations — in line with the character of our nation. Through understanding each other, we will achieve good friendship,” Prabowo said in a soft-spoken speech contrary to some observers and outsiders’ views that he would take a firm stance against other nations having conflicting interests with Indonesia.

Joko, meanwhile, who has often been thought of being more conciliatory toward foreigners — at least compared with Prabowo, underlined that he would not be a toothless leader. When asked about border disputes, for example, Joko said, “If it’s clear that the [disputed area] belongs to us, of course we will make a fuss about that. Don’t think I can’t be stern. I think sternness is daring to make decisions, daring to take action. As a leader of the nation I will take risks. If they try to grab our land, I’ll do anything to [prevent] that.”

He similarly showed a firm stance on the issue of Indonesia’s sour relations with Australia – saying it was not only distrust. “This is also a problem of dignity. I think we’ve been deemed a weak nation,” Joko said. “That’s why the future president must work on these honor and dignity issues. We should never let others belittle and denigrate us because they think we’re weak and powerless.”

This contrasted with Prabowo, who said, “Australia probably has some kind of phobia against us … They probably think we’re a threat. But all Indonesian officials I know want to stay friends with Australia. We need to convince Australia that we want to be a good neighbor, and we’re not planning to do anything bad.”

Throughout the debate — the third of five scheduled by the General Elections Commission (KPU) — Prabowo repeatedly emphasized that to build international prominence, Indonesia would first need to ensure strong economic and human development at home. “Strong resilience and defense stem from people’s prosperity. Therefore we need to work hard to strengthen our economy and reduce leakages,” Prabowo repeated once more, while making his closing remarks for the evening. “No country will respect us as long as we remain weak. Therefore we will work hard to become a dignified nation who will stand on its own feet.”

Other issues

Joko, meanwhile, chose to look at the issue case per case, citing the need to protect Indonesian migrant workers abroad through training and selection processes prior to assignments and for regular monitoring of their condition afterward; the need to employ drones for defense purposes, as well as for surveillance against poaching and illegal logging; and his full support for the independence of Palestine, as well as its full membership in the United Nations.

Joko, though, was vague on his vision for Indonesia in what he called “a global maritime axis.”

“Today’s geopolitics are shifting from the West to Asia, and we’re in the middle of that. In the future, we need to become a global maritime axis so that we can become a dignified, respected nation,” Joko said, stopping short of elaborating what he meant with the axis.

Both candidates agreed that Indonesia needed to support the growth of its strategic industry as part of attempts to revamp the country’s aging weaponry and military equipment, and thus boost its defense. They argued over Indonesia’s recent purchase of Leopard tanks from Germany, though. Joko said the 60-ton tanks did not suit geographic conditions in the country, while Prabowo defended the purchase, saying they were suitable for some parts of the country and would support the Indonesian Military’s (TNI) peacekeeping missions elsewhere.

The issue of the sale of then state-owned telecommunication firm Indosat during the presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri — chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Joko’s political vehicle — also emerged as Prabowo pressed Joko on the issue. The case is often used by Megawati and the PDI-P’s opponents to accuse them of being neoliberalists, which doesn’t sit well with Indonesian voters.

Joko said the decision to sell Indosat was made in the aftermath of the 1997-98 financial crisis, emphasizing that the step was inevitable. He added that anyone elected as president must buy back the strategic asset for the nation.

Indonesians go to the polls on July 9 to elect a new president to replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose second five-year term ends in October.

Bad public speech vs. rhetoric?

Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations and defense expert from the Indonesia Defense University (Unhan), was of the opinion that apart from the contents in the candidate’s answers, Prabowo was more convincing than Joko.

“Based on articulation, Prabowo wins compared to Jokowi. I can tell that Jokowi actually has a good message, but in the first part of the debate, he didn’t look confident,” Bantarto said, referring to Joko by his nickname. “From my observation, Jokowi needs to do more work with regards to public communication.”

Still, Makmur Keliat, an international relations expert from the University of Indonesia, said Joko performed better. “Joko offered practical guidance, like in the case of drones, which he said will be used to monitor illegal fishing activities,” Makmur said. “Prabowo, on the other hand, while managing to address our concerns on natural resources issues, did not offer any practical solutions.”

As for Joko’s idea for a global maritime axis, he said that “Joko did not elaborate on the concept of a global maritime axis — which is good because it leaves room for interpretation and discussion. But at the end, we know there’s something grand to be achieved.”

Prabowo, meanwhile, failed to offer new ideas on the country’s foreign policy and appeared reluctant to oppose the direction taken by the current administration, Makmur added.

 

In Closing Remarks, Joko Says Indonesia at Center of World Geopolitically

By Josua Gantan & Andrea Wijaya on 10:23 pm Jun 22, 2014

Jakarta. In his closing statement in the third presidential debate, Joko Widodo said that Indonesia is slated to be geopolitically placed at the center of the world, as the international focus shifts from Western countries to Asia and Indonesia becomes at the center of Asia.

“Geopolitics … has shifted from the West to Asia. And we are in the center. This is the challenge that we will face in the future. In the future we will be the maritime axis of the world,” Joko said on Sunday.

Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, and as growth slows in China and India, attention will shift to other large emerging markets in the Asian region — namely Indonesia.

Joko then went on to quote Indonesia’s national hero, General Sudirman, saying that Indonesia ought to be a nation of winners.

In his remarks, Prabowo Subianto retains his view that a strong national defense is rooted in a prosperous nation. His focus on plugging losses in the state budget and guarding national wealth were recurring themes in Sunday’s presidential debate.

“We have to lessen the leakages and the spending of funds. If we do not lessen this we will never have the power and the strength,” he said.

“Be frugal, plug leakages,” Prabowo said, referring to stopping the loss of funds in the state budget.

He also called for the eradication of corruption and the streamlining of the national apparatus in order to aid in smoother development.

“No country will respect [Indonesia] if Indonesia is weak and does not have wealth,” Prabowo said. “We must awaken a nation that is strong and will be more independent.”

Both candidates had debated on how best Indonesia should prepare itself to face the Asean Economic Community, which will be implemented in 2015.

While Prabowo stressed the importance of incentives, easy loans and the ease to obtain permits in order to improve Indonesia’s competitiveness, Joko touted the urgency of human development.

Still, Prabowo criticized Joko’s focus on human development and research development. He argued that whereas the enactment of the AEC will take place in a year’s time, Joko offers only a long-term solution.

“Techno park … all those, it is not that easy. We have to be realistic,” Prabowo said.

Prabowo then spoke of the importance of financial austerity for the nation to stay competitive.

“Be frugal, plug leakages,” Prabowo said, referring to stopping the loss of funds in the state budget.

Indonesians will vote on July 9 for the next president to replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose second five-year term ends in October.

The debate was held at Holiday Inn in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta. It was moderated by Hikmahanto Juwana, a professor of law at the University of Indonesia.

 

Prabowo, Joko Go Solo Again in Third Debate’s Focus on Foreign Policy

By Jakarta Globe on 04:02 pm Jun 22, 2014

Jakarta. Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo are set to face each other solo for a second time in Sunday night’s presidential debate, this time focusing on foreign policy and national defense.

Both candidates have different international experiences. While Prabowo was educated abroad, Joko’s global exposure has been limited, particularly to Europe where he traveled for his furniture-making business.

In this debate — the third of five — the two hopefuls will discuss their views on international affairs. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has in the past decade broadened Indonesia’s reach and has helped improve relations with other nations in Southeast Asia and beyond.

National defense remains an important issue, as China seeks to widen its influence in the region and expand its reach in the South China Sea, which is believed to be abundant in crude oil and natural gas.

Prabowo and Joko have both hinted at focusing on further developing Indonesia, and on internal policy.

“Joko Widodo and [his vice presidential running mate] Jusuf Kalla — in the short and medium term and their priority for the future — is to strengthen the Indonesian Military [TNI], the National Police and civil service … in order to maintain the country’s sovereignty, security, and national order,” their campaign manager Tjahjo Kumolo said.

Improving the welfare of officials in the military, National Police and civil service as well as people related to these institutions, will be taken care of and Joko and Kalla view these three groups as an integral part of a strong government, said Tjahjo, who is also secretary general of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

“These are all efforts to maintain national security. They are all the spearhead of a sovereign state and country,” he said.

Tjahjo said a government under Joko would also seek to consistently plan comprehensive and integrated infrastructure development to secure border areas and improve the lives of people living in those areas.

Aleksius Jemadu, dean of the school of government and global affairs at Pelita Harapan University, said last week that both Prabowo and Joko would be more assertive about national interests and more critical and pragmatic about the country’s leadership role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Asean’s membership is composed of 10 nations, including Indonesia.

In an online poll on the election put up by the Jakarta Globe on Friday, of the 470 people who responded to “Who do you believe is leading?”, as of 3:55 p.m. on Sunday 76 percent said that Joko was leading, and 17 percent picked Prabowo, while 7 percent said that both were even.

Indonesians vote on July 9 to pick a new leader to succeed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose second five-year term ends in October.

 

Jeffrosenberg Tan, Portfolio Manager at Sinar Mas Asset Management, Comments on Debate

By Muhamad Al Azhari on 10:30 pm Jun 22, 2014

Jeffrosenberg Tan, portfolio manager at Sinar Mas Asset Management, an asset management arm of Sinar Mas Group, comments on Indonesia’s third presidential debate between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo in Jakarta on Sunday.

“It was a very interesting debate. Both are the same — good. But I am quite surprised. In all of the questions and answers, Jokowi’s answers are more detailed. I was expecting what Jokowi [Joko Widodo] said to come from Prabowo’s mouth. I can see Prabowo wants to emphasize his point that the real strength is in economic prosperity, economic power.

But from my view, from the content of the discussion, what Jokowi delivered looks more appealing to the educated voters. He gave solutions. He went into details about his plans.

What also surprised me is I thought Prabowo would be more aggressive in his foreign policy. But he wasn’t at all. I am glad, though, that both of our leader-candidates will always seek for peaceful diplomacy.”

 

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, Executive Director of Indonesian Political Indicator, Comments on Debate

By Muhamad Al Azhari on 10:53 pm Jun 22, 2014

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, the executive director of pollster Indonesian Political Indicator — which surveyed thousands of potential voters on general political affairs — comments on Indonesia’s third presidential debate between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo in Jakarta on Sunday. He spoke on BeritaSatu TV after the debate.

“What I observed was issue knowledge, communication skills and presentation. What the public may find is that Jokowi is not less knowledgeable than Prabowo in regards to the defense issue. I found many interesting ideas from him, while answers from Prabowo were often repeated over and over. I understand the context, that the best defense is through improving the people’s welfare.

But one thing to remember, the public has high expectations of Prabowo because he is a former military man. People expect a better answer. On the other hand, people have low expectations on Jokowi’s answers, but looking at that debate, public opinion on that would fall apart.

Jokowi is not less smart when talking about defense issues, and Prabowo did not deliver what had been expected.

I also observed that Prabowo approved Jokowi’s view for three times. It is not too good for a presidential candidate to agree too often with his rivals.”

 

Makmur Keliat, International Relations Expert at University of Indonesia, Comments on Debate

By Tito Summa Siahaan on 11:45 pm Jun 22, 2014

Makmur Keliat, an international relations expert from University of Indonesia, comments on Indonesia’s third presidential debate between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo in Jakarta on Sunday.

“Joko offered practical guidance, like in the case of drones, which he said will be used to monitor illegal fishing activities.

Prabowo, on the other hand, while managing to capture our concerns on natural resources issues, did not offer a practical solution.”

Makmur on Joko’s new thinking called ‘World Maritime Center’”

“Joko did not elaborate on the concept of ‘world maritime center’, which I think is good as it would leave room for interpretation and discussion. But, at the end, we know that there’s something grand to be achieved.”

 

Dudi Sudibyo, Aviation Observer, Comments on Debate

By Dion Bisara on 09:20 pm Jun 22, 2014

Dudi Sudibyo, an aviation observer:

He says that the drone program proposed by [Joko Widodo] is ideal to guard Indonesia’s vast sea and land territory.

“I think drones that can fly for one hour non-stop is ideal for the archipelago. We already have the capability to design and build those kind of drones.”

Still, he pointed out that the country is lacking in producing components for drones.

“We are still importing aluminum, the machine, and the [controlling] chips. If other countries embargo those crucial components, that becomes a problem.

So, I think this is the real issue that has to be addressed by the next president — to build our industrial capacity.”

 

Bantarto Bandoro of Center for Strategic and International Studies Comments on Debate

By Muhamad Al Azhari on 09:14 pm Jun 22, 2014

Bantarto Bandoro, head of the department of international relations at think thank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS):

“Based on gestures, Prabowo [Subianto] looks more convincing than Jokowi [Joko Widodo].

Based on articulation, Prabowo wins compared to Jokowi. I can tell Jokowi actually has good messages, but at the first part of the debate, he didn’t look so confident.

From my observation, Jokowi needs more work in regards to public communication. He also must learn the skill about convincing the public through speech, sometimes gestures. Presentation, articulation, affect your charisma.

There was also a very good question from professor Hikmahanto [Juwana] about how Indonesia can modernize its defense without making neighbors worried, but he didn’t answer it.”

 

Hamdi Muluk, Professor at University of Indonesia, Comments on Debate

By Muhamad Al Azhari on 08:35 pm Jun 22, 2014

Hamdi Muluk, a professor and senior lecturer at the department of psychology at University of Indonesia:

“It was a win for Jokowi [Joko Widodo]. He went into details, while Prabowo [Subianto] just delivered rhetorical speech.

I was surprised, everybody expected Prabowo would deliver a better speech on this topic, because this topic relates to our sovereignty as a nation, but what he proposed was nothing but a concept. And it’s just a repetition, without adding any concrete ideas on what he plans to do.

If somebody talks about the necessity to strengthen the domestic economy, everybody already knows that.

For Jokowi, he was very detailed. He has four priorities [on foreign policy] and three strategies. The way he delivered the substance was also good, and it was a well-presented sequence from one topic to the next. And he mentions the need to support Palestine at the United Nations, that’s concrete.”

 

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