Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, prepare to shake hands before the fourth presidential debate at Shangri La Hotel in Central Jakarta on Saturday evening. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A)

Fourth Presidential Candidate Debate Marked by Slow Pace


APRIL 01, 2019

Jakarta. The pace of the Saturday evening's presidential candidate debate between Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Prabowo Subianto was noticably slower than that of the one between their respective running mates on March 17.

This fourth debate of five was on ideology, governance, defense, security and international relations. The last will take place on April 13, four days before the 2019 presidential and legislative elections.

Both candidates stated the same perspective, that Pancasila is the the country's ultimate ideology and that it cannot be replaced by any other, as it was established through great effort and compromise among the nation's pre-independence leaders, to accommodate the country's diversity.

Using the analogy of a bicycle chain, Jokowi said: "There are different opinions; let us not forget that the important thing is not the debate, but the future of Indonesia… I love to ride bicycle and it often happens that the chain breaks while riding. But trust me, the chains of our friendship…won't be cut."

Prabowo responded in the same tone: "Actually, because it's a debate, if the audience watches us being too friendly [with each other, they will not like it]. It's difficult for me, because I am his [Jokowi's] friend."

The Jakarta Globe hereby highlights some key points from Saturday's debate.


Prabowo and Jokowi agreed that Pancasila, as the official state ideology, should be included in the country's school curriculum on every level. However, Jokowi said he wants the ideology to be taught from preschool level and implemented in daily life.

He plans to use social media and creative content to promote the ideology among the youth.

On this topic, Prabowo asked Jokowi to get his followers to stop promoting the idea that he, Prabowo, supports the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia.

"It is something that doesn't make sense. My mother is Christian. I was born from a Christian womb. Since I was 18 years old, I risked my life to defend Pancasila; this country. How could I be accused of wanting to change it?" Prabowo said.

Jokowi responded by saying that he has also been facing many false accusations during the past four-and-half years of his presidency. However, he called on all politicians and the nation's leaders to set a positive example by promoting tolerance and friendship.


The president said he plans to implement a smart government system through "Dilan," or digital services, in reference to the character from a popular Indonesian romantic novel that has also been adapted into film.

He spoke about the four aspects he would focus on to create good governance if he is re-elected. These are: accelerating the government's digital-based services; simplifying and sharpening institutions; improving the quality of the state apparatus with the implementation of technology; and reforming governance.

He said at least 23 institutions have been disbanded during the past four-and-a-half years of his leadership.

"The use of electronic services is about speed, because in the future, big countries won't occupy small countries, or the strongest the weakest, but those that are the fastest will take over the slowest. Therefore, we must prepare our country to be speedy, fast to make decisions, to respond to every change," Jokowi said.

Prabowo said he also saw information technology as a vital part of governance, especially to create transparency and improve the tax ratio.

He promised to implement a single identity card system and to ensure that information technology benefits the country's people.

"If the purpose of the government is not clear, it will be a big loss for the country. The problem with this country, is that our wealth is flowing to foreign countries," Prabowo said, without giving any detail.

"I am better with the use of old technology, as [that way] the wealth of Indonesia won't leave the country," he added.

Defense and Security

Prabowo said the country's defense capability was too weak – far weaker than expected – due to a lack of state funding.

"So we have to protect our finances. Where is our money? Our money, our wealth is not staying in Indonesia, so we're weak," he said.

"We have nothing, no power…for me, we have to increase our defense budget," the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairman said, comparing the country with neighboring Singapore, which he said allocates about 30 percent of its gross domestic product to defense annually, while it is only 0.8 percent for Indonesia.

He also warned Jokowi to not trust all positive reports he receives. "There is an ABS culture in Indonesia," he said, referring to an idiom that means subordinates often skew facts in their reports to make a situation look better than it is, to please the boss.

Jokowi jokingly responded by saying: "Mr. Prabowo, who is [former] military, doesn't trust the TNI [Indonesian Military] while I, as a civilian, trust them. We strengthen our primary weaponry systems not by spending, but by investing."

He explained that the government under his leadership had ordered the chief of the military and minister of defense to develop a defense system that is not Java-centric, by establishing the third division of the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) in Gowa, South Sulawesi, a new Air Force base in Biak, Papua, and a naval base in Sorong, also in Papua.

"We have deployed our troops in four important points; Natuna in the north, Morotai in the west, Saumlaki near Masela in the south and Biak [in the east]," he said, adding that 19 air radars and 11 marine radars have been added to protect the country.  

International Relations

Jokowi said the fact that Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population is a strength for the country to engage with the international community. This has seen Indonesia becoming a mediator in peace processes, such as in Myanmar, with the Rohingya, and in Afghanistan.

"Indonesia doesn't have any interests besides assisting in peace efforts with our major capital as a country with a large Muslim population. We can also offer our export products to other Muslim countries," he said.

However, this drew criticism from Prabowo, who said: "Diplomacy can only be backed up by power…by how many aircraft squadrons, how much military power we have."

He said Indonesia is fragile, which drew laughter from the audience, prompting a sharp rebuke from the former general.

"Don't laugh. If a foreign power enters Indonesia, will you still be laughing?" he said.