Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | 11:57 WIB

Indonesian Elections set stage for dramatic debate showdown; The Presidental Quiz


IO, Jakarta – 2019 Presidential Elections will be held on 17 April. In order to allow the people to get to know the Presidential Candidate Pair’s vision, mission, and programs, the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) has scheduled 5 debate sessions. The first debate was held on Thursday 17 January 2019 at Bidakara Hotel, Jakarta. The themes debated in the first round are law, human rights, corruption, and terrorism.

6 experts joined the team of panelists: Prof. Bagir Manan, former Chairman of the Supreme Court; Prof. Hikmahanto Juwana, Professor of International Law of the University of Indonesia; Agus Rahardjo from the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”); Ahmad Taufan Damanik from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia – “Komnas HAM”); Bivitri Susanti, State Administration Law expert and a founder of the Law and Policies Study Center; and Margarito Kamis, also a State Administration Law expert.

The debate serves as a barometer for the capacity of each Presidential Candidate Pair. Unfortunately, KPU’s strict regulations rendered the debate flat and lifeless. Through this debate, the public should be able to discern the capacity of the Presidential Candidate Pairs. We hope that the remaining four debates will become more proper forums for Presidential Candidate Pairs to demonstrate their mastery of various issues. Let us analyze this.

Vision and Mission
Presidential Candidate Pair Number 01 Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin were given the first opportunity to describe their vision and mission.

“My beloved fellow Indonesian people. Our vision is one of an advanced Indonesia. We offer optimism and a fair future for Indonesia. I believe that the more advanced a country is, the better its law enforcement and human rights will be. Not only political civil rights, but also the satisfaction of our economic and cultural rights, that is how we choose to advance Indonesia. Access to education, health service, capitalization, and development rights is the way to satisfy basic human rights. Attempts to correct past violations of human rights would not be easy, because of the complexity of the law and proof is too difficult to unravel quickly.

“However, we are committed to resolve these human rights issues. In order to guarantee these rights, this country must reform its institutions. The law must be enforced without discrimination. Law enforcement must be strict. Efforts of corruption eradication are supported with synergy and cooperation between the KPK, the Prosecutor’s Office, and The Police. Finally, we must be aware of the threat of terrorism,” said Joko Widodo, better known as “Jokowi”.

Afterwards, Presidential Candidate Pair Number 02 Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno expostulated on their vision and mission, starting from Prabowo. “We call our vision ‘Indonesia Wins’. ‘Indonesia wins’ is our goal, because now we feel that many indicators show that our current situation is not so promising. In this world there are about 200 countries. It is stated that 30 of them are very successful, 30 very unsuccessful and poor, the rest are somewhere in the middle. Successful countries are self-sufficient in terms of their food, fuel, and clean water.

They also have strong Government agencies proven to be strong, especially law enforcement agencies. Judges, prosecutors, and police officers must be excellent, must be proper, and their integrity must never be questioned at all. Therefore, relating to the issues of law, human rights, corruption, and terrorism, we want to resolve these from the root of the problem. We believe that the root of the problem is that we must have sufficient money to guarantee the quality of life of all authorized officials, so they cannot be corrupted, cannot bet tempted by corruptors or bribers. That is our strategy.

We can resolve this repressively, but we think the resolution must come from the root of the problem. We must pay judges handsomely that they would not be affected, and we will do so for prosecutors and police officers. Therefore, we must control Indonesia’s economic resources. I believe that is our main strategy. We believe that with clean and strong agencies, we can uphold legal certainty for all. Not the protection of the law simply for the strong or the rich. I believe that is our intent. Justice for all, security for all, prosperity for all. I believe that is the way.”

Sandiaga added, “Indiscriminative law, one that is not harsh to the weak and gentle to the strong, the law that grants certainty and opens up economic opportunities, generates job opportunities. We also ensure that the law creates a sense of justice for the people. A lot of our people still complain about our law enforcement. I believe that is our unfinished work, and with Prabowo-Sandi we will ensure law enforcement, no more corruption. We will ensure that Indonesia prospers,” he said.

In terms of terrorism, Ma’ruf said that terrorism is a crime. Therefore, terrorism must be eradicated all the way to the roots. The (Majelis Ulama Indonesia – “MUI”) has issued a fatwa (religious decree) that terrorism is not jihad, in fact it is a damage to the community, therefore it is haram (religiously forbidden). This is because the Qur’an states that anyone who create damage on Earth must be strictly punished. “Therefore, efforts to mitigate terrorism must be made twofold: they must synergize prevention and punishment. In the future, we will prioritize prevention through counter-radicalism to eliminate or suppress radical and intolerant thoughts. and through deradicalization we will return the exposed ones. Therefore, when taking action, we will use a more humanistic approach, a humane approach that need not violate human rights. In order to mitigate terrorism in the future, we will involve NGOs, especially religious ones,” Ma’ruf said.

Jokowi stated that our country has served as example for other countries in the mitigation of terrorism. “We not only use a strict law enforcement approach, but also a persuasive approach through religious, economic, and social guidance. However, the most important thing is that officials must be given knowledge concerning human rights. SOPs must be based on human rights and the Terrorism Law enacted in 2018. This law also focuses on prevention using social, cultural, economic, and religious approach. Most importantly, it has transparency in relation to punishment, so everything is clear.”

Prabowo said when he was younger, he specialized in anti-terrorism. “I established the first anti-terror unit with Pak Luhut Pandjaitan. Therefore, I understand human rights. The problem is from my experience, I learnt that terrorism is frequently sent here from other countries, and it is frequently disguised to make it seem as if the terrorist is from sincere Islam. In fact, these movements are most probably controlled by non-Muslims from outside the country. I really understand this. Therefore, the stigma that radicalism is always related to Islam, I reject. I agree with deradicalization, I support humanitarian efforts,” he said.

Other than terrorism, another theme of interest is corruption. In terms of refining a corruption-free bureaucracy, Prabowo has said repeatedly in public that the root of the problem is that civil servant income, bureaucrats’ income is insufficient, unrealistic. “If I lead this country, I will improve the quality of life of all bureaucrats realistically. If you should ask me later, “Where is the money coming from?” I will improve the current tax ratio, which is 10% or even lower, I will return it to at least 16% tax ratio. That means that we will get about USD 60 billion or more. Therefore, I will improve the salaries of all officials, bureaucrats, and all civil servants. I believe that if we improve the salary scale significantly, improve the quality of their life, guarantee their needs, and they still choose to be corrupt, that is too much and we must punish them the strictest way possible.

If necessary, we can take the example of drastic measures taken in other countries. We might sentence them to a remote island and work them to mine sand for life, say. So, we improve their income, that is what we need. It does not make sense that such important officials have such low income. However, after that we must monitor them strictly with all of our weapons, instruments, and equipment that we have – inspectorates, monitors, earlier I mentioned police officers, Prosecutor’s Office, KPK. We will strengthen KPK. We will establish KPK offices in the regions, in the provinces. We will increase the KPK budget. KPK must become the anti-corruption enforcer in this country,” he said. “And we must improve the recording of the State’s assets. That’s important,” Sandiaga added.

Jokowi disagreed with Prabowo. “We know how much our State officials make. I think that is enough, especially with a high addition of performance benefit. I think the most important thing now is the slimming down of bureaucracy. Later we will implement a merit system. We recruit the best sons and daughters of the nation through the merit system. Transfer and promotions shall be given out according to competence, according to integrity, according to track record. Second, we shall implement strong internal monitoring, this is extremely important – and naturally external monitoring, whether from the people, the media, the State Civil Apparatus (Aparatur Sipil Negara – “ASN”) Commission. Internal monitoring is crucial for improving and cleaning out the bureaucracy,” he said.

Another thing to note during the debate: Jokowi and Prabowo were both asked about the best way to deal with the high cost of politics. According to Jokowi, basically, recruitment must be based on competence, not financial strength or not nepotism. Therefore, recruitment of bureaucratic officials must be performed transparently and simply, with clear standards. The system for recruiting people to fill in political positions needs to be simplified, so that our elections become cheaper. If officials are not burdened by election costs, we hope to be able to cut down on money politics, bribery, and corruption, and we can obtain public officials with integrity and good capacity. We hope that with such recruitment, we can secure for all positions – regents, mayors, governors, etc. – the best sons and daughters of Indonesia, because recruitment is transparent and accountable, as everyone can see. “We have done this already. For example, we recruit ASNs openly. Everyone can check, the results can be checked, even my own child cannot get a position if he really did not pass the test,” he said.

Prabowo responded by saying that more concrete, practical, and immediate steps are necessary. For example, how can a governor have a salary of only Rp 8 million? Later they will manage a province, for example Central Java, that is bigger than Malaysia (Central Java population 34.2mil to Malaysia’s 31.6mil), with such a large Regional Budget at their disposal. Therefore, this is unrealistic. “I believe that if a Government head or executive really want to improve this matter, we must dare to make breakthroughs so that public officials’ income becomes very big. Later we cut down all campaign needs, for example TV belongs to the people. Therefore, we must not pay too much to appear on TV, as well as radios and signboards in the cities,” he said.

Jokowi responded, “Earlier I stated that recruitment based on competence and not finance is the key. For example, in my own case: during Mayoral Elections, I really used a very small budget. Even during gubernatorial elections in DKI Jakarta, I and my party did not spend any money at all, and Pak Prabowo also knows this, the chairmen of my supporting parties also know this. However, again, this needs a long process. What does it mean? Political movement can start from volunteers, from the public desire to obtain good leaders without prioritizing finances.”

Even though the debate between the two Presidential Candidate Pairs tended to be monotonous and flat due to the time limit, there were still some interesting things between them. The pairs contrasted each other greatly. For example, Jokowi-Ma’ruf tended to read out from texts during the debate, and they looked tense and rarely smiled. This is very different from Presidential Candidate Pair number 02, who were much more relaxed and smiled often. In fact, Prabowo danced during one of the sessions and Sandiaga gave him a massage. Absolutely something to think about.

After the debate, two of Prabowo’s statements were very much misunderstood. First, concerning the increase of tax ratio to 16%. This is frequently twisted as “tax rate”. Second, concerning the salary of the governor of Central Java, an area that is bigger than Malaysia.

Member of National Land Authority (Badan Pertanahan Nasional – “BPN”) Directing Council Fadli Zon said that a number of media sources erroneously reported that Prabowo will increase tax rate or tax percentage. In fact, Fadli said, tax ratio and tax rate are two very different things. He reiterates that Prabowo meant to increase tax income, from 10% to 16%. “Pak Prabowo never means to increase tax, but he wants to increase tax income ratio to 16 (percent), which is currently 10 (percent). That is very different. I think that was what caused the misunderstanding,” he said.

Other than concerning tax ratio, the governor’s salary also became a topic for debate. However, after the Independent Observer investigated, it transpired that the salary of governors, vice governors, and regional heads are regulated in Decree of the President of the Republic Indonesia Number 68 of 2001 concerning Amendment to Presidential Decree Number 168 of 2000 concerning Position Benefits for Specific State Officials. The regulations states that the basic salary of Level I Regional Heads or governors is Rp 3 million. Other than salary, the governor obtains position benefits according to Presidential Decree Number 59 of 2003 at Rp 5.4 million. Vice governor’s basic salary is Rp 2.4 million, with benefits at Rp 4.32 million.

Prabowo-Sandi’s Director of Materials and Debate, Sudirman Said, clarified Prabowo Subianto’s statement that the Province of Central Java is bigger than Malaysia during the first Presidential Election Debate. According to Sudirman, Prabowo did not mean area size, but population. “Prabowo’s statement was not about area size, but about the population. That can be measured from area size, from the complexity of issues,” he said.

Sudirman further said that in the future, Prabowo-Sandiaga will continue to do their best in debates, especially in relation to the data used. They will ensure that the data they are taking to the debates will not cause any controversy among the public. “This is a debate at strategic level. It cannot be perfect in terms of data and detail, because the President works with all agencies. We are going to do better in order not to state facts that turn out to be controversial,” he said. “Small errors are fair, what matters is that we can deliver our message to the people.”

Debate Concept
Indonesian Institute of Science (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) Political Observer Siti Zuhro said that the quality of the first 2019 Presidential Elections debate is still lacking. Debate is not only for stating a vision, mission, and program. “Debate” should mean a face-off between Candidate Pair number 01 and number 02. “But what happened was that the Candidate Pairs did not face each other. Instead, their view Presidential Candidate Pair went straight to the public, so that two-way communication did not occur. This is certainly not good in terms of political communications,” Siti said.

Siti said that if the event is going to be termed a “debate” then there should be two or parties debating with each other, and there is material being debated, instead of a question-and-answer session. The substance of the word “debate” did not show, because there seemed to be a more presentation and discussion shown. There was no freedom to argue or explain, because the time limit is too short. Siti stated critically that the time limit given to Presidential Candidate Pairs was too strict, only 1-3 minutes instead of the more common 5-10 minutes. This debate is meant to explore the depths of national-level leaders, not Neighborhood Association chiefs.

“I think Pak Prabowo has properly given the opportunity to Pak Sandi as his Vice-Presidential Candidate to answer the questions, but the time was insufficient. If there is any issue or topic that Sandi masters, that should be given to him so he gets his share. Pak Prabowo can deal with issues relating to political parties in his capacity as the General Chairman, while issues relating to the economy can be given to Pak Sandi as he has the competence for it. I think the time division is still insufficient,” Siti said.

The incumbent seemed to read out their answers more. “Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin have been working as perfectly as possible according to prepared answers, but their time ran out. They should understand what the question is about, then understand the substance of their own answer. Therefore, there is no need for them to read out an answer, unless they want to cite in numbers more accurately. However, what happened was that the questions are not related to numbers, but they were busy reading. Furthermore, the incumbent’s Vice-President Candidate was mostly silent, making the debate less than lively,” she added.

“If we are going to pattern ourselves after the American style, the Presidential Candidate should meet against the Presidential Candidate, while Vice-Presidential Candidate meets against Vice-Presidential Candidate.” Other than that, the tables and chairs in the American style are directed in such a way so that the Presidential Candidate Pairs look at each other. However, that was not the case during the debate the other day, two-way communication between Presidential Candidate Pairs did not occur. It would be much better if the two Presidential Candidate Pairs can look at each other, because this is a debate between these Presidential Candidate Pairs. Don’t let the moderator act like a rising star.

Yet in Indonesia, there is the tendency to showcase the moderator instead, while the star should be the Presidential Candidate Pairs. Other than that, the moderator also should have kept the ambience flowing, not adding to the tension by invoking the time limit and very strongly too. This is also a criticism of the Moderator. The direction of the Presidential Candidate Pair’s view should not be towards the public or moderator, but towards the other Presidential Candidate Pair. The tables and chairs can be slanted a bit like in the American-style debate, so they can see each other while the public also look at each of the Presidential Candidate Pair,” Siti said.

Political Observer Adhie Massardi stated that this is where KPU went wrong. The debate should have been held to show off the abilities of the candidate, but KPU has delegitimized its own event from the start by making outlines of the questions. That is actually unnecessary, because the public should see things as they are.

Al Azhar Indonesia University Political Observer Ujang Komarudin said that in the first debate, both sides still look awkward and unexciting. Because KPU gave them the questions’ outlines, neither Presidential Candidate Pair enjoyed the debate. KPU needs to evaluate these things in the future, especially the duration granted for answering the questions. This needs to be lengthened, in order for the debate to become more detailed and substantial. With such limited time, the public does not have sufficient time to evaluate the quality of the Presidential Candidate Pairs properly. “The debate is spiritless, not exciting, lifeless. Whatever is said should be of value and inspire the people,” he said.

KPU’s Duties
KPU currently still has time to improve the 2019 Presidential Elections Debate. KPU needs to reorganize, to improve the debate in such a way that the ambience of the debate is characteristically Indonesian. It is impossible for us to organize an American-style debate, but there are other requirements that must be satisfied for us to be able to call it a debate. First, the vision, mission, and program must be improved. This must be read out by the panelists in order to allow them to generate questions. Later the Presidential Candidate Pairs can answer the question together, and can clarify, explore, and argue the answers together.

Because the concept is a duet, this is different from the one in America, where the Presidential Candidate meets against Presidential Candidate and Vice-Presidential Candidate meets against Vice-Presidential Candidate. There must be a sharing between Presidential Candidate and Vice-Presidential Candidate, because they are presented together. We don’t want either of them to just be idle and silent. This is also important for sharing answers, for example if given 5 minutes, one might use 3 minutes for Presidential Candidate and 2 minutes for Vice-Presidential Candidate for balance.

Second, after panelists issue their question, each Presidential Candidate Pair may question each other freely. This would allow each Presidential Candidate Pair to describe their vision, mission, and program for the State. The time should be about 10 minutes, so that the answers are not just on the normative level, but there are interesting concrete illustrations as well. “I think the organizers are erroneously concerned that the debate will degenerate into a shouting match as the Candidate Pairs get heat up with their responses, so they limit the time strictly to 1 minute for questions and 2 minutes for responses. If the time is limited, only question-and-answer would be possible,” Siti said.

KPU must be held responsible for this bland debate. Learning from experience, KPU need not make many assumptions. We need to maintain social stability and harmony among the people, but don’t let it cramp the freedom of Presidential Candidate Pair debates. Unless we stop calling it a “debate”, and simply use it to describe the Presidential Candidate Pair’s vision and mission, and do question-and-answer about them. Again, a “debate” means that there is a substance being debated. “We must also find out who gave so many restrictions to KPU, and who shows nervousness. Both Presidential Candidate Pairs must be ready for a real debate. If they are not ready, they shouldn’t bother to put themselves as Presidential Candidate and Vice-Presidential Candidate in the first place. Naturally, “ready is as ready does”. People who are completely prepared need not worry to face questions, simply because they are afraid of losing,” Siti said.

Unbalanced Media
Many media came out to support the incumbent after the debate. However, polling in social media shows that Prabowo-Sandi has the advantage. Indonesia Lawyers Club’s polling shows Prabowo-Sandi to get 89% of the vote, with Joko-Amin only fetching 11%.

Siti said that the situation is similar with that of the 2014 Presidential Elections, where the media was not neutral and balanced. They forgot about equality before the law in democracy, sitting equally low and standing equally tall. This is what fails to show. “During the launching of the book Pers Ideal untuk Masa Demokrasi (“The Ideal Press for Democratic Period”) in October 2018, I was one of the speakers discussing the book. I quoted a small article about how the press should be, what is the ideal condition. There are some important points here, among others the press must enlighten, educate, inform, and publish objective and clear news. There should be a transfer of information.”

The majority of the media supports the incumbent. However, Adhie believes that the media is still going to watch where the wind blows and where the public lends its support. The tendency of the media, especially mainstream media, will show itself in February and March. As in the reform era, at first no media dared to show support of reforms, but in time they all supported it.

Ujang admitted that Prabowo-Sandi so far control the social media. Many of the polls there are won by Presidential Candidate Pair Number 02, as social media is the alternative when mainstream media already shown their support to the incumbent. “Those in power will remain close with mainstream media, so it’s natural if Jokowi has the advantage there,” he said.

Plus-Minus of the Presidential Candidate Pairs
Jokowi attacked Prabowo and his party in some of the questions. According to Siti, this is out of left field. She found that Jokowi’s performance as the incumbent to be a disappointment, because he did not give relevant answers to the questions. He remained stuck to details, or take issue with personal and individual issues instead of institutional issues that affect the State and nation. All discussion of the vision, mission, and programs in the context of state administration and organization is not shown much either. Furthermore, he mostly answered questions by reading out his answers, meaning there was not much direct communication with the public. He should have been more confident with his 4-years’ experience and policies, but he wasn’t.

Meanwhile, Adhie Massardi thinks that Prabowo’s side was hemmed in by KPU’s stern indoctrination to remain calm and not humiliate or embarrass the other party, so that Prabowo-Sandi seemed awkward. In fact, we might note that some facts actually conflict with what was stated. “For example, when Jokowi said that he did not spend any money during the Gubernatorial Elections, Prabowo could have said that Jokowi did not spend his own money, but spent Prabowo’s money instead. However, Prabowo maintained the courtesy drummed to him by KPU and did not debate that. Another issue that should be elaborated include imports. The public sees that the Minister of Trade has been playing tricks with imports. Yet this policy is discussed and decided at the Palace, meaning that it is the Palace that issued policies that hurt farmers. The question is, “Who ordered the president to approve the flood of imports?”

In terms of law enforcement, Jokowi said that he will not let parties choose the seats, and he will revise the system. But how can he revise the system if the ones having the seats were there because they were the one appointed by their parties to sit there? Contrast this with the Gus Dur era: he also requested help from coalition parties to win, but it was Gus Dur himself who selected who sat where. For example, the Minister of Labor during Gus Dur’s rule was Hilal Hamdi from the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional – “PAN”). He was appointed directly by the president due to his competence, even though he was of a different party from the president at the time (Gus Dur was the founder of the National Awakening Party [Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa – PKB”]).

It is not a problem if it were just selecting ministers from parties. However, Jokowi could not make any choice, because he was the new boy on the block at the national level. But the biggest mistake was when he allowed his political party to choose the persons heading the Ministry of Justice and Prosecutor’s Office. That was a weakness Prabowo-Sandi could have attacked, so it is a disappointment to their supporters that they took things too easily and did not take the tack, while Jokowi-Amin freely insinuated and insulted them about kidnapping and murder. Prabowo-Sandi could have responded to that as well, i.e. by saying if still there are still so many kidnappers and murderers running around, that is actually the President’s own fault. The President has legal instruments at his disposal, how come he did not catch these bad guys? This could have been returned to the incumbent himself,” Adhie said.

Adhie further noted that Jokowi seemed to be reading out more, while Ma’ruf Amin tended to remain silent. The public noted that this so-called “debate” strictly formatted the ideas of the Presidential Candidate Pair. This is shown that the closing statement was only read out until a whole quarter of a minute. Afterwards, even though there was time left, the incumbent did not know what else he should say. His team has already prepared this condition for framing purposes. However, the moderator should have participated more here.

Ujang thinks that Ma’ruf Amin was mostly silent. This is because he did not control the theme of the debate. “Therefore, he did not talk in order to avoid things that might go wrong. It’s better to remain silent than be wrong,” he said. “Jokowi as incumbent frequently looked at his text, and that was allowed. In the future, texts should only be used for reference. He should have been able to improvise with deeper statements.”

Furthermore, Ujang said that Sandi has the advantage as a young Vice-Presidential Candidate, entrepreneur, and former Vice Governor of DKI Jakarta. “Sandi as a businessman has had many experiences with aspects of the law, so Sandi has better knowledge about the law and corruption. As Sandi mastered this debate theme, his answers were very helpful to Pak Prabowo,” he said.

Catching Swing Voters
According to Siti, the general benefit of the debate for voters is that it provides them with a full image of the Presidential Candidate Pairs: their profile, how they present, articulate, respond, make gestures and movements – those are directly available for everyone to see, especially for an educated society. Such a thing is targeted for swing voters, or doubtful voters who can swing either way.

If the target is educated society, the debates must be rational. Do not treat the audience as if they don’t know what they are seeing. This is different from when the audience are lower-class people who prefer visuals and are not expected to follow the substance of the dialogue too closely. The benefit for Presidential Candidate Pair would be an increase in their electability and acceptability. The Candidate Pair can hope for a support niche that he can win, confirm his own voters, and perhaps also win enthusiasm or interest from undecided voters.

In order to attract more swing voters towards themselves, Presidential Candidate Pair must prepare for better performance. Substance is extremely important; however, performance must support it as well. The quality and substance of the arguments must be watertight. Facial expression, movement, gesture, must satisfy national expectations of someone they can expect to lead. “In this recent debate, the incumbent was shown to be highly emotional. We usually hear among the people that he is down-to-earth, simple, and patient. However, he did not show these qualities in the debate. The question is: “Was the incumbent under such great pressure, or was he suddenly aware of his powers and was trying to show off?” Siti asked.

According to Adhie, the debate did not affect the supporters of each Presidential Candidate Pair, because no matter what the incumbent or the opposition do, the supporters will continue to love them blindly. However, any new values that emerge from the debate can change the voters’ map, because there are many swing voters who are undecided. Therefore, KPU should have designed the debate to attract these swing voters. After all, they actually prefer not to vote, as neither Presidential Candidate Pair is pleasant to them and they believe that the elections are not credible either.

The Elections contest is rather similar to soccer. If the organizers are fair and credible, if the people see that the law is really enforced, the contest would be exciting. New innovations, such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) introduced by Russia in the 2018 World Cup, would help reassure the people that the elections will be fair and nobody cheats. KPU should copy this. With the current situation of flooding social media and the obvious partisanship of television media owners, KPU should prioritize fair play so that the people see good law enforcement, reassuring them that their votes actually count.

“I keep on seeing the rise of non-voters, not only because the candidates are incompetent in the eyes of the public, but also because the election organizers are deemed to be incompetent. That was the reason I establish a swing voters’ group, in order to persuade them to use their voting rights. Our stance in the swing voters’ group is based on the incumbent. If we feel that the incumbent is good, we will vote for him again, but if not then we will elect the opponent, no matter what happens. Now our democracy is no longer like the Political Triad, which had a balance of power. At the moment, our legislative and executive are controlled by the same power. We can no longer implement the balancing power theory of the Political Triad, so it would be better for us to experiment with this new democracy. We hope that it would generate the correct choice of leaders eventually.”

The debate should have the benefit of attracting new voters outside of partisans, but debates are always hellish for any incumbent. And that is not only in Indonesia, but also in other countries. After all, the public would have had the leisure to watch over the incumbent’s performance while ruling. The incumbent will only win the debate if its government went well, like Bill Clinton and Barak Obama who fully utilized their bragging rights when campaigning and debating for their second terms. To put it simply, any president whose first term is successful will be re-elected in America.

KPU must be responsible and account the execution and results of the elections to the public. The level of non-voters remains constant at about 29% elections after elections. What we are not fully aware of is the “cost of voting”, wherein it costs money to hold elections for each vote. Now, there are 142 million plus voters listed in the Confirmed Voters’ List (Daftar Pemilih Tetap – “DPT”). It will cost about Rp 24.7 trillion to prepare for this number of voters, or a cost of about Rp 130,00.00 spent for each voter. If 29% do not vote, there would be about Rp 7 trillion of the State’s money lost.

To contrast with America, that country only has a 50% level of non-voters. However, these non-voters already have the moral and intellectual basis for explaining why they choose not to vote. But in Indonesia, KPU has never explained the existence of non-voters, and why there is no effort made to reduce the number, for example by creating strict rulers that regulate voters. “I think the consistently high level of non-voters in post-reform elections is because the organizers of elections are incompetent,” Adhie stated.

The Presidential Candidate Pairs must perform aggressively in order to win swing voters through debates, i.e. by delivering substantial arguments. It would be better if they can control the technical delivery, but the most important thing is the policy. Until now, we still do not know who will be in the opposition’s cabinet, nor in the incumbent’s cabinet. Will they be the same people, or new people? This must be announced to the public, because we don’t want the winning Presidential Candidate Pair to be supported by ambiguous people, corrupt people, or people with slave mentality that can be easily dictated by foreign powers. We don’t want the policies stated to the public to differ from the reality at the ground.

Therefore, KPU can request, for example, that in the future the debate includes the Presidential Candidate, Vice-Presidential Candidate, and 5 core ministers. This would be exciting for sure: the people can already imagine such innovations that would pique their interest and improve the quality of our democracy. “The Prabowo-Sandi duet won by a slight margin in the recent debate, and might even win if they play hardball, for example by saying to Jokowi, “That’s a lie – you used my money during the Gubernatorial elections,” Adhie said.

Seeking True Leaders
Indonesians are seeking true leaders, the biggest nation in Southeast Asia with amazing potentials. Therefore, their leaders must also have amazing capabilities. Adhie said that that what KPU and political parties never really consider is that our elected leaders must face other heads of State, at least in ASEAN level, such as for negotiating the issue of expatriate workers with Mahathir Mohamad, terrorism with the Philippines, or terrorist groups with Papua New Guinea.

Due to this oversight, we see how during Jokowi’s rule, our country’s foreign powers are sinking slowly. In fact, Indonesia has absolutely no dignity in ASEAN, even though ASEAN’s headquarters is located in Jakarta. When the case flared in Myanmar, Indonesia should have taken a more active role as the biggest and strongest country in Southeast Asia and should have been able to initiate steps to get the UN to intervene. However, there has been no such action taken during Jokowi’s rule.

The public hopes that Prabowo will be able to do this. However, the situation during the debate did not provide an opportunity for Prabowo to demonstrate his leadership. At the first sight, this debate was too ordinary for a Head of State and Head of Government level. Taking things this easily in the future would prevent us from being elegant and classy later. The important thing is that KPU must understand that the debate is a duel of integrity and credibility for the position of a future great leader in Southeast Asia. It might be necessary for us to select independent thinkers from campuses, experts in fields like International Relation and State Administration, to pose the question. It is actually not too important to control technical issues, but they should know their own policy very well. The President can grant the People’s Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) the authority to elect prosecutors and maintain independence in judicial department.

“I see how everyone was so amazed by KPU’s strict rules, that the “debate is more like a spelling bee due to the tension. Everyone should relax and let the Presidential Candidate Pair fight it out, because we really are looking for fighters who will represent us before other countries. Even worse, one day we will be caught in the economic battle between China and America. Therefore, we need competent and courageous candidates,” Adhie said. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)


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