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Indonesia’s presidential campaign ends with a bang

Jet Damazo-Santos
Netizens say Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla came out fierce and won the debate, but it remains to be seen whether it will bring the momentum back to their camp

FINAL DEBATE. Joko Widodo (2-R) talks to debate's moderator Prof. Sudharto P. Hadi accompanied by Prabowo Subianto (2-L), Prabowo's running mate Hatta Rajasa (L), and his own running mate Jusuf Kalla (R) during the final debate in Jakarta on July 5, 2014. Photo by Bagus Indahono/EPA JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s highly divisive presidential campaign ended on a strong note on Saturday, July 5, with candidates pulling out stops in the last of 5 official debates. 

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, and his running-mate, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, faced off with former general Prabowo Subianto and running-mate former Economics Minister Hatta Rajasa on food security, energy, and environmental issues. (READ: AS IT HAPPENS: Indonesia’s presidential debate)

SHOW OF SUPPORT. Prabowo supporters outside the debate venue spell out their candidate's name. Photo by Ismira Lutfia/Rappler  The debate was held at the Bidakara hotel in South Jakarta and broadcast live by television stations, with big screens provided for supporters of both camps outside. Rappler contributor Ismira Lutfia reported that there were more Prabowo-Hatta supporters at the venue, some of whom were wearing shirts that spelled the pair’s names. 

The debate got off to a relatively slow start, but became interesting once the candidates began asking questions to each other. When Prabowo asked Jokowi to clarify his previous statement that farmers do not need cooperatives, the former Solo mayor shot back, saying: “I think you misheard or misread. Everyone knows cooperatives are needed.

Everybody knows cooperatives are vital for our economy. It is impossible I dismissed their role,” Jokowi added.

The debate heated up further after Hatta asked Jokowi why the city he used to lead, Solo, has never received the Ministry of Environment’s Kalpataru environmental award. Kalla retorted: “Your question is a good one, but it is misguided. For cities, [the award] is not called Kalpataru, but Adipura.” The Kalpataru award is given to individuals and organizations.

Jokowi added that Solo has received the Green City award from the Environment Ministry. In a press conference after the debate, former President Megawati Sukarnoputri told reporters: “I regret that Pak Hatta, who has been in the government for quite a long time, can’t tell the difference between Kalpataru and Adipura awards.”

One of the highlights of the debate was when Kalla put their rivals on the spot: “In your campaign in Bandung, you said there are entities looking to change democracy into kleptocracy. This gives the false impression that our coalition consists of people stealing funds from government programs. However, there is no oil mafia, beef mafia and hajj funds mafias on our side. So who exactly were you referring in your speech?”

The coalition of political parties supporting Prabowo include individuals embroiled in corruption cases involving oil, beef imports, and hajj funds. 

“I was talking about our democratic process. For example, there is a lot of vote buying activities. Our democracy is being damaged. I am not saying we do not have ‘thieves’ in my party,” Prabowo responded.

Netizens commented on how Jokowi and Kalla came out much stronger in the debate. Some even credited it to Jokowi’s choise to wear his trademark plaid shirt with a pair of sneakers  a move to return to his “man of the people” image after his choice of a suit for the first two debates received criticisms. 

Social media reaction

In a packed nonton bareng (group watching) event organized at the Coffee Institute in South Jakarta by AyoVote, a voter awareness campaign, young voters were busy tweeting reactions and commentary to the debate, according to Rappler reporter Ayee Macaraig. 

In a press release, social media monitoring group Politicawave said the hashtag #Jokowi9Juli became a top Trending Topic Worldwide while #Pilih_No1_PrabowoHatta came in third. 

“Netizens supported Jokowi-JK in all segments of the final debate,” Politicawave founder Yose Rizal said in the release.

They monitored 64,297 conversations on Jokowi and Kalla, almost thrice the 22,584 monitored for Prabowo and Hatta. Net positive sentiment was also recorded at 46,721 for Jokowi and Kalla over 11,652 for Prabowo and Hatta.

It remains to be seen, however, whether this will affect the outcome of the vote on Wednesday, July 9. Recent surveys show Prabowo’s electability has been on an upward momentum, cutting Jokowi’s once-large lead down to just 3-7 points. 

With just three days to go before almost 190 million Indonesians vote for a new president, analysts and observers praised the debate, but noted that it may have come too late. 

– with reports from Ismira Lutfia/

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