INDONESIA: VP candidates hardly argue in 'debate'
Critics attribute the failure of the televised vice presidential debate to its format and the candidates' similar responses
The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
By Erwida Maulia
The premier televised vice presidential candidate debate broadcast Tuesday night appeared to hardly differ from last week's presidential debate.
One or two candidates seemingly attempted to heat up the discourse, but either the format of the show or their similar answers to moderator's questions meant the two-hour show barely resembled a debate.
Even moderator Komaruddin Hidayat, rector of Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta Islamic State University, acknowledged the lack of heat in the debate, shot in a studio of local TV station SCTV.
"Whether it is a debate or mere talk, it is for you to judge. It is the rules that want it [the debate] to be so," he said, closing the show.
Observers said the candidates showed finer points than their rivals on various issues, but overall failed to meet expectations of a more lively debate.
Repeating the much-criticized format of the premier presidential debate last week, the Tuesday night's vice presidential candidate debate began with a brief music performance, by veteran local singer Ebiet G. Ade.
Each candidate was then given seven minutes to present their vision and mission related to debate's theme "Building national identity".
They were afterward shown footage on conflicts, social disparity, and accidents, and were given a chance to comment on the footage, two minutes per theme.
Each candidate was allowed to comment on others' remarks in the third part of the debate, and each gave a one-minute closing speech.
Retired Army general and running mate of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, Prabowo Subianto, said it was impossible to properly build the identity of the nation without improving the country's economic condition.
"Without improving our economic situation, without closing the leakage of our rich natural resources to other countries, we'll continue to be weak, a loser state."
Former central bank governor and running mate of incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), Boediono, said to strengthen national identity, sense of justice and national pride, as well as people's prosperity, should be firstly strengthened.
He also said building a clean government was a key factor in building the identity of the nation.
"Thus we, SBY-Boediono, are determined to build a clean government so as to build the identity and enhance the dignity of the nation."
Candidate No. 3, retired military chief and running mate of incumbent Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Wiranto, began and ended his vision-mission presentation singing a short part of two national hymns.
He emphasized the need for a strong leader who dared to take risks and whatever policies and programs necessary to strengthen the identity of the nation.
"I see the heart of my motherland writhing in sorrow. Now she is crying, despairing, grieving ..." Wiranto sang solemnly.
"Don't let our motherland be continually sad, let's build our national identity to make her laugh again," he said, welcomed by the studio audience's clapping.
Without Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who regularly threw jokes during breaks in last week's presidential debate, silence fell in the SCTV studio during each five-minute break time of the vice presidential debate, with each candidate preferring to sit still while waiting.
Boediono and Wiranto talked to their campaign team members during the breaks, but Prabowo spoke hardly to anyone, only allowing his make-up to be fixed by the TV crew.
Prabowo spoke mostly with his firm style reminiscent of his military days, and Boediono with his usual soft-spoken tone. A calm but articulate Wiranto repeatedly tried to initiate a debate with little success, with his claimed disagreements with rivals' arguments.
Date Posted: 6/24/2009