Indonesia: Disappointing Election Debate

Last Thursday June 18, 2009 some millions of Indonesian TV viewers fixed their eyes on their TV set for the nation's first ever presidential election debate. It was the only moment so far where the three Indonesian chief of state hopefuls — Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), Megawati Sokarnoputri (Mega), and Jusuf Kalla (JK) are reunited all in one forum.

The citizens applauded the idea of the political show which was aired by several TV stations, but many booed the program's execution.

Online, bloggers are in unison saying that the debate was a full blown disappointment.  Some believe that it was a key moment for the three candidates and their running mates, but unfortunately the candidates weren't seen to carry themselves well enough or to send out the proper messages that could increase their odds to become the president of the world's largest Muslim populated country.

Herman Saksono wrote an opinion about the debate in Politikana, an online community for politically-savvy Indonesians, saying that:

Walaupun saya berniat mereview konten debat capres tadi malam, tapi dengan segala maaf saya bener-benar tidak tahu berkata apa untuk Mega. Argumentasinya yang sama sekali tidak jelas, memunculkan keraguan apakah Ibu yang satu ini memiliki visi untuk negara ini.

SBY dan JK muncul sebagai pemenang malam itu, walaupun penampilan mereka tidak spektakuler. SBY menunjukkan kapabilitasnya sebagai seorang pemimpin yang melihat permasalahan secara makro, tetapi kurang mengeri permasalahan pada skala mikro. JK justru sebaliknya, ia seperti tidak paham konsep-konsep bernegara, tetapi juara ketika membahas isu-isu yang dekat dengan keseharian kita.

Keduanya memang seperti kombinasi yang ideal dan saling melengkapi. Tapi kita semua tahu kombinasi SBY-JK tidak akan bisa jalan mulus.

Eventhough I have no intention to review the content of the debate, but with all due respect I have no clue what to say about Mega. Her arguments are unclear, making us wondering whether the lady actually has a vision for this county.

SBY and JK were the winners of the night, despite their less than spectacular performances. SBY showed his capacities as a leader that oversee problems in macroscopic way, but he failed to show comprehension to solve the micro issues. JK on the other hand, knows so little about governance concepts, but he aced when it comes to the people's daily issues.

They're both are an ideal combination that compliments one another. But we all know that SBY-JK combination will not be smooth.

RJ Sulistyo wrote a post on Kompasiana, stating his disappointment about the highly anticipated debate.

Awalnya sangat ditunggu, tapi akhirnya mengecewakan. inilah komentar singkat tentang debat calon presiden putaran pertama tadi malam. Normatif, miskin gagasan segar, seragam dan tidak ada saling serang. Menjemukan.


Agar debat berlangsung menarik pertama-tama semua pihak harus punya gagasan yang berbeda. Tidak akan terjadi debat jika idenya sama dan seragam. Jika gagasannya sudah berbeda ketiganya harus saling serang. Ini penting untuk menguji sebuah gagasan apakah didasarkan pada argumen atau fakta yang menunjang atau tidak. Jika dilakuan ini bisa menguji kecerdasan dan juga mental calon presiden kita.

Ketika masalah alusista dan lumpur lapindo diangkat, Mega dan JK tidak menggunakan isue ini untuk menyerang SBY. JK kita maklum saja, posisinya sebagai wakil presiden dalam pemerintahan SBY tidak akan membuat dirinya mampu secara frontal menyerang gagasan SBY. Mega sesungguhnya punya peluang besar untuk menjatuhkan SBY. Peluang ini tidak dimanfaatkan secara optimal. Maka debat menjadi tidak seru, sekaligus tidak bermutu.


Kita maklum debat ini adalah tradisi baru. Para calon agaknya masih ragu-ragu untuk saling serang secara berhadap-hadapan dalam forum terbuka. Selama ini mereka sebenarnya sudah saling serang secara sengit tetapi tidak secara berhadap-hadapan. Pada posisi ini saya menilai semua calon telah menjadi pecundang tadi malam. Di depan orangnya bersikap manis-manis, tetapi diluar saling serang dengan pedas.

(The debate was) highly anticipated, but the result was disappointing. here are some short comment about the presidential candidates’ first round of debate. Normative, lacking fresh ideas, monotonous and they didn't attack one another. Boring.


To have an interesting debate, first of all they need to have different perspectives. There won't be any debate if they all have the same perspective. When their visions are different, then they should start criticizing each other. This is crucial to see if the idea is based on (a good) argument or strong facts or not. This way we can test the intelligence and mentality of our future president.

On Indonesia's main weapon defense system (Alutsista) and Lapindo Mud flow (writer's note: read here for more info), Mega and JK didn't use these two issues to criticize SBY. If JK remained silent, we understood why, his position as Vice President in SBY's administration enables him to frontally criticize SBY's ideas. Mega had a huge opportunity to bring down SBY. The opportunity was not used well. That's why the debate was not at all exciting or even good in terms of quality.


We understand that the debate is a new tradition. The candidates are still hesitating to criticize frontally in front of an open forum. All these times they've been criticizing one another harshly but never face to face. In this position, I think everybody was a loser last night.  In front of the person (they  criticized), they're behaving nicely, but out there they criticize each other sharply.

Seno on his Life is too short to drink bad coffee blog said:

Saya berpikir debat capres putaran pertama akan berlangsung sengit karena dalam kampanye mereka selalu saling sindir, dan membuat suasana politik makin memanas. Ternyata tidak, Megawatiyang dalam pidato kampanye selalu menjadi oposisi, kali ini selalu mengiyakan apa yang dikatakan SBY dan JK.


Saya seperti mencari ketiak ular. Tidak ada perbedaan prinsip dan visi misi serta perbedaan cara mengatasi masalah-masalah yang dipertanyakan oleh moderator.

I though that the first round presidential debate will be very sharp because during their campaigns [id], they're mocking each other, heating up the political arena. But in fact no, Megawati [id] in her campaign speeches  always placed herself as the opposition, this time agreed to things that was said by SBY and JK.


I feel like I was searching the armpit of a snake. There were no principle differences,  objectives,  or alternative problem solving answers to questions asked by the moderator.

Teenlit author Sitta Karina Rachmidiharja express her opinion through twitter, saying:


The first presidential candidates’ last night was not “hot”…

Despite the poor review of the program, as Sitta Karina said, it was a good start for Indonesia, one of the world's youngest democratic countries.

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