Why Last Night’s Debate was Irrelevant

Yesterday marks the first public debate, for the seat of Jakarta’s governor and vice governor. The debate was broadcast all over our nation, giving us a chance to take a peek of each candidate’s quality. As appetizing as the debate was, there wasn’t much that we can take away from last night’s event. Especially for somebody who’ve read the news. Last night was pretty much about each candidate outlying their own program while at the same time, passive aggressively (while still being polite and subtle) attack other candidates (or at least two of them did). The way each candidates debated, it was as if they had nothing to lose. And considering this was the hottest political seat in the nation aside from the presidency, this got me thinking, do political debates between candidates even matter in this country?

The answer is pretty much straight forward, I don’t think so.

NO CHANGE OF HEARTS

If there’s anything we can be sure about Indonesian people in general is that they’re loyal with their community. That loyalty extends to religion, race, culture and political affiliation. While changing one’s preferences from one party to another for financial or any other reason is not uncommon, the average Indonesian (we must remember that we may not be an average Indonesian from educational background point of view, because by 2014 the average primary school enrollment was still below 60%) remain loyal to their affiliated party. We must understand, that at the end, many Indonesian will only consider a specific promises that for them are more probable to alleviate them from their struggles. That, and the community development program that some party have done to their community, may have already made their mind up. So when a candidate play this “group” thing, be it their party, religious background or race, it is harder for ideas to become a head turner.

COMPREHENDING WHAT MATTERS

Comprehension of issues that matters outside personal preference I think is a key aspect that many Indonesian lacks. If we look at a more mature democratic society with a better education in general, people traditionally have a more open mind regarding the candidate they’ll choose even if it means they have to vote against their own party. That’s because they are more attracted by ideas, and that is where campaigns holds an important role in winning any political race. Of course that is also true here in Jakarta, but if we look at the nature of the campaign here, it is quite different. If in, say, U.S. candidates generally hold an open event and talk for hours about their ideas, here in Indonesia, candidates need only to walk through villages and shake everybody’s hand. And that’s only recently thanks to Jokowi; before, candidates only need to erect a stage, invite a singer and say “vote me” at the end of a concert. Of course in any democratic society, there will always be a hardcore left supporters and hardcore right supporters, and the campaigns are usually to sway a more lenient supporters. But here in Indonesia, there are no such thing as hardcore left or right, because party ideology are quite blurred. Which brings me to the next point.

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE FIGURE

From Jokowi to Prabowo, Megawati to SBY, while being loyal to party or a certain group can be a factor, the figures hold a more important role for Indonesian politics. Because there are such an abundance of political party in Indonesia, the POD’s for one party to another becomes increasingly indistinguishable. Parties has become increasingly less concerned about their ideology, basic values and fighting about what they believe to be the best for Indonesia and concentrate more on winning any political race in the name of power. So what they end up doing is choosing a candidate that are relate-able or attractive (cough candidate number one). And this becomes a good backup for my first point, hoping that if their party is not attractive enough, or their history is not convincing enough, the attractiveness of their candidate can win people over (cough candidate number one again).

(I think I’m getting the flu)

Those points are just three main things (among a lot of others that I won’t mention for the benefit of you cause I can go on for days) that I think made this debate an impotent tool to our democracy. Indonesian in general (and again, chances are we are not the average Indonesian or even Jakartans as a matter of fact) don’t elect their leaders from the ideas and what they might bring to the community. The Indonesian in general are basing their choices more on a very shallow personal or group interests rather than ideas that can develop societies, and most of them may have already made their mind up the day the candidates name was announce and has pledged, not to change their preferences whatever happens.

And that is a shame really, because some of the ideas discussed by the two candidates was really interesting. Oh there was three candidates? Lol (cough).

So there is no wonder that Anies has been seen as the winner, because his figures and his poetic tone is more attractive to the people, no matter how clearly impractical his ideas were. And you know what’s funny, he ran his campaign with this idea that he was “experienced”. As what?! An education minister who failed to lay a single useful program? Yet again, he is selling the election on education for God’s sake.

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