Indonesian Presidential Candidates: Pre-debate Commentary

22 Jun

Contemporary international politics have been marked with increasing connections and networks between various actors. States, posing as a central actors in international politics, have been faced with various issues in their negotiation table, raging from economic cooperation, environmental issues to security and the threat of terrorism. Any government administrations then, should juggle not only between these various issue but also between the international/global issues and national/local demands.

Indonesia is a key player in international politics, or at least, it has the potentials to be one. Not only it has tremendous national resources, it also lies in a strategic geographical position, cradling Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei and effectively connecting Australia to the rest of the world. It also has biggest Muslim population in the world, and with conflicts plague Middle east and various Muslim communities, Indonesia might be the right actor to mediate these conflicts. Or, again, at least it has the potentials to be one.

Indonesia’s next president will have his plate full. Economic growth and stability will be the main concern, especially facing the economic integration through ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. Both Prabowo and Jokowi had stated in the second debate that they will maintain economic growth and stability, but how to fulfill this promise while being integrated in AEC is still unclear. There is also the everpresent problem of protecting Indonesia’s migrant workers, which become the gripes of many migrant care activists. Again, both Prabowo and Jokowi put the protection of migrant workers in their platform but have not yet elaborated the mechanism to do so.

On the security issues, the main issue perhaps how the government should deal with the separation movement in Papua. The candidates have not provided their strategies in dealing with this issue, but Prabowo has the upper hand in this since he had participated in military operations in Papua during his time in the military. Jokowi, on the other hand, might have to rely on his parter, Jusuf Kalla, who had successfully deal with GAM in Aceh.

Indonesia’s archipelagic territory provides great challenges to the country. Not only there are illegal fishing by foreign nationals, there were also the cases of asylum seekers passing through Indonesian waters to Australia, an issue that put strains to the diplomatic relations between the two countries. Prabowo, with his background as a military general, will have better experience in handling this issue. Jokowi might be at disadvantage here, but at least he puts priority to this issue, by promising 1,5% annual increase for military budget and commits to the development Indonesian navy.

Looking beyond the territorial security, both candidates should also answer concerns on human security. There are human right cases that tarnish Prabowo’s background and become the main source of uneasiness among certain groups in Indonesia. But apparently, voters might have to be wary to Jokowi’s platform, since he seeks to strengthen Indonesian intelligence agency (BIN). In time where critics question various intelligence agencies on their surveillance methods that breach privacy and put citizens into anxiety, increasing Indonesian intelligence agency is a policy that should never been taken into granted.

To make the task more daunting, the next Indonesian president also have to contend with his predecessor’s legacy. President Yudhoyono’s achievements in international politics might overshadow him. President Yudhoyono, after all, is the third person ever to be awarded the title of Global Statesman by the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

It is in this context that tonight’s Indonesian presidential debate takes place. Up until the second debate, the candidates have not provided clear standing on the previously mentioned issues. Tonight debate might provide the necessary opportunity to both candidates to elaborate their vision and strategies for Indonesia’s foreign policy.


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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in Perjalanan, Renungan


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