The Fourth Presidential Debate: Prabowo defender of the nation scores a big win

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Independent Observer

IO, Jakarta – The Fourth Debate between Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto was held on 30 March 2019 in the Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta. The themes were “Ideology”, “Government”, “Defense and Security”, and “International Relations”.

Prabowo Subianto’s performance in the Presidential Candidates’ Fourth Debate was quite dominant. When he talked about military and international relations, for example, he really understands the context of the issues being faced by Indonesia. He also firmly attacked Jokowi’s policies. This left an impression to a lot of people, whether in terms of performance or the content of that he presented. He was also quite dominant, tended to appear on the offensive and master the discussion topics, especially the military. Prabowo is also considered to be able to present significant differentiators in terms of the government, military, and international relations as the debate topics of the night, through his ideological views.

On the other hand, the opponent, Joko Widodo, seemed rather shocked and nervous when responding to the various issues presented by Prabowo, even though he fought to remain calm. Inevitably, Prabowo’s performance is considered by many to have returned his strict personal style before the public, after having presented a different persona earlier in several campaigns in the regions. Especially since during one of the sessions, he scolded a member of the debate’s audience, and he criticized Jokowi’s subordinates for having “provided Jokowi with the wrong briefing” in security defense.

Prabowo’s Advantage
Prabowo’s firmness in expressing his thoughts during the debate caused Google Trend to put him at an advantage over Jokowi. Google Trends data shows that Prabowo won the debate at a wide margin: Prabowo earned 62.74% popularity, while Jokowi had 37.26%.

Before the debate started, people talked a lot about the issue of “khilafah vs. Pancasila”. According to Siti Zuhro, Indonesia’s Institute of Science (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”)’s Political Observer, ideology is a serious issue. Unfortunately, ideologies are fought off against each other. They are bought and sold as political commodities by elites who use them to manipulate a short-fused citizenry. There is a narrative that the 2019 Presidential Election is a contest between Pancasila and Khilafah. Pancasila is made into political commodity, and this is misleading. Our election currently does not enlighten or educate the people, making our political situation even muddier than ever. “However, I can say that the accusation of khilafah tendencies to Prabowo is both erroneous and improper,” Siti said.

According to Siti, Presidential Candidate 02 advanced in the Fourth Debate due to his partisanship towards our country and nation, to the importance of security defense, strong NKRI, and how secure defense as an institution preserves the nation’s sovereignty. Right now, Indonesian people want and need a leader with strong leadership and vision for the future. Not just for the 2019-2024 period, but for the long term until 2045, or until Indonesia’s centennial anniversary. What will it be like for Indonesia? How will it fare regionally, in the Asia Pacific, and globally? How to return and position Indonesia back into a country admired and respected for strong leadership and domestic success?

If our domestic situation is not chaotic – our economy is strong, Pancasila is implemented in the entirety of its spirit, there is no longer any threat to our social harmony, these are among others the indicators we strive to achieve. When the people confront each other and negativity dominates, we know that our country is becoming vulnerable. The reality is that the socio-economic gap is still acute. The prices of basic necessities continue to rise; our economy is in a general slump, affecting not just the middle- to lower-classes, but also our middle- to upper-middle classes. Our people’s Happiness Index is far from being a success. Despite Prabowo’s exceptional performance, Siti notes that it is still not yet optimal to be able to correct corrupt government and stagnant bureaucratic reforms.

Meanwhile, Ismail Hasani, Setara Institute’s Research Director, considers Jokowi to be the type of leader who is detailed in his mastery of technical issues. On the other hand, Prabowo is a generalist. A leader should be a generalist, meaning that he knows many things but there is no need for him to get into too much detail. Ismail notes that incumbent took a defensive approach, in terms that he presented his achievements so far. However, the incumbent’s weakness is his inability to describe a futuristic vision properly. The challenger leveled many attacking questions that piqued Jokowi. Prabowo is the more visionary of the two. “The Fourth Debate was more dynamic. Both candidates were also more relaxed,” he said.

Kusfiardi, FINE Institute’s Econo-Political Analyst, found that an interesting contrast throughout the debate was that Presidential Candidate 01 did not say much about corruption. On the contrary, Presidential Candidate 02 emphasized that whatever we do for the government, we need to focus on mitigating corruption, eliminating the practice of buying and selling positions, orienting ourselves to service, and strengthening the national economy. He also criticizes Presidential Candidate 01 for not having a clear vision and mission relating to the government, international relations, and ideology. In the end, his statements ended up seeming to be artificial. For example, Jokowi identifies defense of the State’s ideology by establishing the Pancasila Ideology Strengthening Agency (Badan Pembinaan Ideologi Pancasila – “BPIP”). The effects of this new agency towards the implementation of Pancasila in the people’s daily life is yet to be seen.

Defense and Strategic Facilities
Indonesia’s defense budget is small. According to Siti, what Prabowo said is nothing new. This statement has been expressed by members of the Armed Forces themselves. Prabowo only mentioned an existing reality, questioning when the State Budget will become supportive so that our primary equipment and weapon system, as well as our defense and security HR and governance, can improve. This must naturally be adjusted to existing external challenges as well as domestic changes. Reorganizing our security defense is important. Prabowo concentrates on how to return our nation to a respected and admired nation, one with a more concrete regional and global contribution. We need to improve the governance of our security defense, bureaucracy, and law enforcement. More importantly, we need to re-establish our value system, rebuild our sense of honor and courtesy to ensure that Indonesians grow into moral humans with and akhlakul karimah (possessing good virtues and acting virtuously in daily life).

Ismail admits that our defense budget is smaller than our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Prabowo’s presentation was related to the bearing and strength of our security, and that is good. However, we should also look at other aspects of security. Right now, defense is not only about traditional security that relies on war using weapons and vehicles. The core of warfare today is non-conventional warfare such as cyber wars, proxy wars, and information technology. This is crucial, yet neither candidate discussed it.

Prabowo disapproves of allowing our seaports and airports to be operated by foreign companies. “I would say that allowing foreign companies to control our strategic facilities is a grave error, but foreign funding is part of business. However, strategic sectors should have direct priority funding from the State, because no matter what, when a foreign investor has the majority share in a strategic sector operation, it would have the right to make decisions as well. These strategic facilities and objects should be managed by the State, because this is according to the principle of Article 33 of the Constitution of 1945: ‘All strategic sectors that might affect sovereignty must be controlled by the State’. The key is to ensure that the authority over strategic sectors must be firmly held by the State,” Ismail said.

Kusfiardi concludes that Jokowi’s government has been neglecting crucial security issues, such as the economic potential of borderline areas. This is not made a priority, while the security of any area is also dependent on its economic strength, especially in border areas that serve as fences against neighboring countries. We then learned that this is caused by budgeting issues, and this is also the reason why our defense budget is insufficient. Jokowi himself admits the issue. This means that Presidential Candidate 01 admitted that he has not been able to implement policies that harmonize with our national interest, especially for solidifying our State’s ideology, within the past 4.5 years. The failure of the government to contribute sufficiently towards national interest, including national security, is because there is a failure in formulating the proper policy strategies.

Furthermore, defense budget is an issue of political partisanship. The president and his government should support the Constitution. The Constitution declares that the State must protect, educate, maintain the welfare of, contribute to the peace of the nation and the world. These four issues should have been the priority. Even when constructing infrastructure, the Government must ensure that the construction is related to these four basic issues.

The logic behind the setting of the State budget has been dominated by neoliberals who usually hold power as Ministers of Finance. They put up “limited finances” as an excuse to limit allocations. The question is: “How come with such limited amount of funds, the Ministers of Finance never once think about how to reduce debt liability, which is about 30%-40% of the State’s expenditure, so that we have enough money to allocate for education, health, defense, security, and other things the people need more?”

Presidential Candidate 01 also does not properly understand what is called the “crucial production factors for the State that affect the livelihood of the many”. He considers the presence of private, foreign powers to be something ordinary in the operation of our transportation. Seaports and airports are strategic facilities. This is the erroneous ideas held by this regime, as reflected in the choices made by its ministers. This issue is not just an issue for the president. We don’t want the people who formulate the State’s policy to fall into liberalism, which will allow private companies, whether domestic or foreign, to come back into power. Other than having a president who understands the issues and is committed to prevent the rise of liberalism, the ministers should also be on the same wavelength to prevent the creation of policies that would return us to liberalism.

International Contribution
Jokowi brags about his contribution to the Rohingya conflict. However, Siti admits that we have a bigger target of earning Indonesia more respect in the ASEAN region. Why was Indonesia such a great consideration and power during the New Order era? That is because our domestic condition was solid. Therefore, before we can get Indonesia to contribute, we need a strong leader with strong leadership to improve our domestic condition. This is the era of regional autonomy, the era of emphasizing law enforcement in order to maintain demographic equality and harmony.

The people would become wild and unruly without law enforcement. In order to ensure that our demographics generate widespread benefit, we must have a target for governing our demographic in Indonesia’s own way, so that we can generate a positive correlation between direct simultaneous Regional Elections and direct simultaneous Presidential and Legislative Elections. If we don’t implement a governable government, why bother? Just spouting off promises during the campaign. In the democratic perspective, other than as a process for succession, democracy is the way for the people to correct existing government.

When we see the frequency of his attendance in international forum, Jokowi’s international contribution does appear to be limited. Ismail, however, said that international relations is not always reflected by frequent attendance of a president. Our diplomats also work well, and there are notable achievements.

Relating to Indonesia’s international contribution, Kusfiardi believes that we are still far from being equal with other countries. For example, our economic reciprocity is low. If a country imposes entry tariffs, we should to the same. America protects its agriculture, why don’t we? Other countries protect their strategic sectors, why don’t we? This is not a matter of economics, but also about how we deal with the economic policies of other countries. This is also part of international relations. We still have not seen anything like this from Jokowi’s government, and we do not know why. Jokowi’s ministers are still mostly liberal, market-tending people who do not really care about national interest. This is the threat of our future government, and we must be able to anticipate and prevent the worsening of our economic condition.

Bureaucratic Reforms and Corruption Eradication
One of the challenges that we must face in bureaucratic reforms is the bidding for positions. Unfortunate­ly, Siti notes that there is no transparency or accountability in our government when officials are promoted. The extent of corruption, collusion, and nepotism in the era of supposed transparency and accountability is a mockery of our law enforcement. We are suffering from widespread corruption. It is a reflection of our weak law enforcement and ineffective monitoring. In this emergency situation, when the law is no longer effective towards everyone but only to one side, we need a firm and dignified leader.

Ismail notes that bureaucratic reforms are far from easy. In Jokowi’s era, sale and purchase of positions remain rampant, the latest being the case of United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan – “PPP”) General Chairman Romahurmuziy. “There will always be sale and purchase of positions in every government. Corruption is an inherent disease in any regime, and it is impossible to 100% guarantee that a regime can be freed of all corruption, including in terms of sale and purchase of positions. Therefore, all leaders must show their commitment,” he said.

Kusfiardi admits that bureaucratic reforms are not easy and cannot be completed within a brief period. However, there should at least be a roadmap that can be informed openly to the public for control purposes. So far, we have not seen any roadmap for bureaucratic reforms. Furthermore, efforts of bureaucratic reforms are mostly directed for the interest of capitalists instead of the interest of the people. For example, the single-window permit is actually made for entrepreneurs. Investment permits cannot be enjoyed by most of our people, but they are enjoyed by capitalists who are mostly foreign companies. Therefore, so far, the current agendas cannot be perceived as a comprehensive agenda that will effect improvements in the future.

Every day, the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) announ­ces yet another sting operation (operasi tangkap tangan – “OTT”). The fact that the latest sale and purchase of a position/bribery occurred in the Ministry of Religious Affairs shows that we have serious problems. Existing statistical indicators are still questionable, as they do not reflect public reality. Corruption eradication should be performed more systematically and comprehensively, i.e. by reorganizing our institutions. Agencies with centralized authority such as the Ministry of Finance should be divided. For example, the Directory General of Taxes and the Customs and Excises Division can be established as separate agencies. Recording can be performed by a separate ministry, similarly with payment, to ensure check and balances and suppress abuse of authority.

We must also note that trial and punishment in corruption cases should be effected jointly with State agencies, i.e. by using the results of Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan – “BPK”) audits. BPK audit reports contain sufficient details. For example, some findings show violations of the rules and regulations in the State’s financial management, while others show actions that might potentially damage the State. Therefore, they can be followed up with improvements that would lead to corruption eradication.

Agustinus Pohan, Law Observer from Parahyangan University, concludes that neither Presidential Candidate made a specific commitment concerning corruption eradication. Corruption eradication has not yet been implemented during Jokowi’s era. Prabowo mentioned the importance of clean and strong government agencies. Without any political will to eradicate corruption, the government will be weaker. For example, the latest exposed sale and purchase of positions is related to Government staff’s original political parties. It is quite possible that this case would end up involving many parties. Agustinus suggests that the Anti-Corruption Law be revised, as per the UN’s requirement to revise the law and to ratify the Anti-Corruption Convention. However, the mechanism remains vague. Previously, everything would have been regulated in the Criminal Code, but later it was agreed that a specific Anti-Corruption Law will be drafted.

The Fight to Get Swing Voters
Two weeks before the Simultaneous Elections, both Candidates continue to fight for the choice of swing voters. It is hoped that these swing voters would finally make a choice according to results of their observation. The benchmark of the Candidates is generally set by the Presidential Candidate Debates. “Social media can serve as indicator of direction for the intelligentsia or undecided or swing voters. The people seem to be enthusiastic about the Debates and give high marks to Prabowo. This means that they want someone who dares to lead, not to control, because statesmanship is required of our leaders. In other words, our people want true statesmen to become their leader,” Siti said.

Ismail considers the two candidates to show little differentiation from each other. They share extremely similar views on things such as Pancasila ideology and commitment to corruption eradication. There are slight differences relating to national defense and international relations. “However, I really do not sense strong differentiation between the two candidates. Therefore, the final Candidate Debate will probably make the most difference to swing voters, as the public would tend to remember the Final Debate much better than they do the previous debates,” he said.

Technical Leader vs. Ideological Leader
Semiotics Expert Acep Iwan Saidi explains his analysis of the Fourth Debate. He concludes that Jokowi is a technical leader, while Prabowo is an ideological leader. “The Fourth Debate has clearly shown the characteristics of both Candidates, Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, to the public. They can even be called to have stripped themselves bare before the voting public,” Acep said in his written statement.

According to him, “characteristics” are not just shown by a person’s gestures and body language, but also through their ideas. In semiotics, what is in a person head is an important part of his or her characteristics. Ideas or thoughts are marks (concept), while the body (looks) and behavior are markers. “Referring to Hjemslev’s semiotics, the body is expression, while thoughts are content. The mixture of these two creates character,” he said.

From his debate notes, Acep stated that Jokowi’s non-threatening gestures on stage are the natural expression of a person who was born and raised in the genteel Solo Javanese culture. Jokowi did not snap, he tended to be defensive and calm. “Jokowi is a technical type of leader. He only touched the outer skin of ideological issues (the debate theme). This emphasizes what his leadership shows,” Acep said.

Meanwhile, Acep stated that Prabowo responded to the questions and described the issues being discussed in the debate from its substantive-ideological aspect. Several of his responses were also based on reference. Acep stated that Prabowo’s aggressive gestures are the natural expression of a person born and raised in Banyumas-Java and Minahasa mixed culture. He highlighted how Prabowo’s gestures were strong and snappy, how he frequently heightened the tone of voice and called out the name of his opponent (Pak Jokowi), and how he always moved his hands up and down and looked offensive.

“Prabowo is an ideological type of leader. Even technical questions from panelists about the govern­ment were also connected to ideology. What Prabowo showed on stage emphasizes his characteristics so far. His characteristics are exact opposite of Jokowi’s. Prabowo does not consider appearances to be too important, he tends to say everything as it is,” Acep said.

(Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)