Prabowo, Joko to Go Head-to-Head as Debate Focuses on Economy

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Jakarta. Presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo square off in the second of five debates on Sunday night, this time without their running mates by their sides, to challenge each other on economic and social welfare issues.

According to an online poll of “Who do you think won Monday’s presidential debate?” by the Jakarta Globe, 88 percent of the 896 people who answered since Tuesday say that Joko and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, beat out Prabowo and his vice presidential candidate, Hatta Rajasa. Indonesians go to the polls on July 9.


Without their running mates beside them in the second debate, all eyes will be on how Prabowo and Joko perform individually. Kalla and Hatta are experienced politicians and are accustomed to handling various forms of questions publicly.


“I think the Prabowo-Hatta pair should go to camp and seriously practice to catch up with the points they lost and their performance in the first debate against Joko-Kalla,” David Krisna, an analyst from the Populis Institute, said on Saturday. “Otherwise … their performance will be even worse and embarrassing,”


“The arrogant attitude of Prabowo and his campaign team [who claimed] Prabowo is ready and accustomed to debating and therefore did not need practice should be evaluated and shouldn’t be repeated. Otherwise they will fail again, and again, and eventually discourage their constituents from voting for them, triggering them to vote instead for the other candidate who they think may have performed better,” David said.


Both tickets have already presented their views about managing Indonesia’s economy, the biggest in Southeast Asia. Prabowo and Joko have similar strategies in mind, including improvement of the nation’s food and agricultural security, and reducing state subsidies on fuel.


Yet each has their own style in handling other issues. Prabowo’s brother and economic adviser, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, said on June 6 that Prabowo believed Indonesia was “underleveraged” and could borrow more because its private and public debt only amounted to about 28 percent to 35 percent of gross domestic product. Some analysts worry that raising debt levels is unnecessary.


Joko, meanwhile, wants to pursue bureaucratic reforms that would ease further the process of doing business in Indonesia. Still, there are concerns that Joko may not have the political clout to pursue such a plan because he is not the head of his political party.


“If they are messy and erratic in speaking to the public, this would be a big threat for a leader,” David said. “Their credibility and dignity could weaken and consequently give way to misunderstanding and confusion among the public.”


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