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  • The Centre of Expertise on Trade,
    Investment and Public Policy

    Indonesia’s fourth election debate highlights candidates’ policy differences

    Published On: 4 April 2019

    Andre Woolgar, Business and Policy Intern

    With the Indonesian elections being held on 17 April, incumbent president Joko Widodo (Jokowi), and challenger Prabowo Subianto are ramping up their respective campaigns for the presidency of the world’s third largest democracy.

    The two presidential candidates discussed their competing visions for Indonesia, including governmental reform, the role of technology, international relations and defence, in the most recent election debate – the fourth so far.

    Jokowi promoted his vision of a government that is able to ‘serve digitally’, promising reforms to refine and simplify government institutions as well as improve the quality of their manpower. He promoted the need for ‘government services that can be done electronically, (such as) e-government, e-procurement, e-budgeting’, preparing the government for the modern digital era.

    The closing down of 23 government institutions during Jokowi’s presidency was used to promote his vision of a more streamlined and ‘agile’ government. Prabowo agreed, though hinted that the bevy of ID cards required to receive services from different governmental departments should be simplified to one common ID card. Furthermore, he suggested that corruption needed to be eliminated in order to achieve greater efficiency, saying that the ‘nation is not able to do development’ without it. Digital technologies can be used as a weapon for these efforts, he added, as well as boosting the domestic tax ratio.

    In terms of the economy, Prabowo stated that the problem with national wealth is that it ‘does not stay in Indonesia’, highlighting his tendencies towards economic nationalism. While hoping for modern technology, he stated he would prefer ‘to have old technology, but (make sure) the wealth of Indonesia does not leave’. He looked at the example of ports and airports in Indonesia being under foreign ownership, claiming they threaten national sovereignty, echoing his call for energy, water and food self-sufficiency from the second debate. Jokowi disagreed, stating that this was how investment worked and indicating a more open and pragmatic approach to international investment.

    On defence, Prabowo accused Jokowi of underfunding the military, comparing Indonesia’s 5 per cent spending on the military to Singapore’s 30 per cent (though studies suggest it is more like 17 per cent). Jokowi rebutted him, stating that all funding for the military has to promote Indonesia’s own defence industry, promoting investment in the domestic market.

    The immediate reaction of the debate, which took place on Saturday, was mixed, with one poll by PoliticaWave, based on social media analysis suggesting that Jokowi’s performance was viewed more positively in social media posts than Prabowo’s (74 per cent positive versus 52 per cent). The latest poll released today puts Jokowi at 55.4 per cent, while Prabowo is at 37.4 per cent, though the data was from before the debate.

    Frantic campaigning continues before the election on the 17 April. The candidates will hope to be able to sway more voters at the next debate on 13 April, which will cover the crucial topics of the economy, social welfare, the financial sector, investment and industry.

    Analysis by Asia House Advisory

    To read more about the Indonesian election campaign and its possible outcomes, read Asia House Advisory’s briefing paper here