Jakarta. The first presidential debate of the 2014 election campaign ended on Monday amid hysteria from both camps’ supporters and an extraordinary attack by Jusuf Kalla against Prabowo Subianto’s human rights record.
Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa laid out their version for a “constructive democracy,” raising the living standards of millions of Indonesians, while Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla trumpeted a steadier line, pushing their credentials as reformers toward clean government. Joko citing his creation of transparent catalogues for procurement in his capacity as Jakarta governor — Kalla reminding the audience of his credentials as a peacemaker in conflict zones.
Corruption and clean governance were themes throughout the debate, but Prabowo, in particular, looked to enlarge the conversation with some thrusting rhetoric about Indonesia’s supposed subservience — including references to the number of women working abroad as domestic helpers and more general comments to the effect that the country was deserving of greater respect.
Joko seemed content to keep his focus on the need for reforms to improve the bureaucracy and reduce corruption — and of his record in fighting for pluralism.
“I don’t want to revisit this issue actually, but if you remember Lenteng Agung subdistrict head, Susan, I received protests but said [the decision] was final and cannot be challenged,” he said referring to the Christian ward of Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta.
The surprise of the night came from Kalla, who took his gloves off to question Prabowo’s human rights record.
“I know where you’re going with this Pak,” Prabowo began.
“I am the staunchest human rights defender in this country,” he told hundreds of spectators in Balai Sarbini, adding that as a soldier he had done his best to protect Indonesia’s sovereignty by following his superiors’ orders.
Hatta was also attacked by Kalla.
“Legal certainty must guarantee that discrimination should be eliminated and democracy should guarantee the whole country regardless of their background and religion,” Hatta said.
“Leaders need to obey the law before speaking about legal certainty,” Kalla responded, in an apparent jibe at the five-month probation handed down to Hatta’s son for a traffic accident that killed two people, including an 18-month-old child.