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What they said about the first-ever 'debate' for the top job

Sumber: THEJAKARTAPOST.COM | Tgl terbit: Jumat, 19 Juni 2009

Thursday's debate received mixed reactions from the pundits, scholars and the general public alike. Most welcomed the effort of the three candidates, but few seemed convinced by their campaign promises.

Political analyst J. Kristiadi from the Centre for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) believes this year's debate to be better than 2004.
"The three candidates demonstrated a more relaxed performance as they also responded to the other's statements."

In his judgement, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono performed best by giving a more comprehensive and focused solution to the topics raised.

"The position of incumbency of course benefits Yudhoyono as he knows well the problems in the country, including how to deal with the primary defense weapon system, human rights, good governance and the protection of migrant workers."

Yudhoyono, he said, was also well-mannered in responding to his competitors' remarks.

In terms of Lapindo, Kristiadi said Yudhoyono's answer indicated that he knew well how to resolve the problems.
"The question is why he should wait for re-election as president to resolve it."

Kristiadi awarded Jusuf Kalla second place, although he said, Kalla failed to show his "best" natural expression as demonstrated in previous televised debates.

"He failed to steal the show."

Kristiadi lamented that Kalla did not touch on the main issues of human rights problems when delivering his political vision as he focused too heavily on good governance.

"It seems to me that Kalla did not enjoy the topic, or he isn't familiar with more in-depth solutions."

While ranking Megawati Soekarnoputri last, Kristiadi admitted that she showed signs of improvement in her debating abilities in comparison to her performance in 2004, "She was more relaxed in the first day of debates."

"But, she did not provide comprehensive answers on many questions making it difficult for people to understand her statements, including on human rights and good governance," explained Kristiadi.

"Nevertheless she stole the show when answering the problems of migrant worker protection and the Lapindo case."

When asked to grade the overall performance, Kristiadi gave Yudhoyono a "Good", while Kalla scored a "Satisfactory Plus" and Megawati a "Satisfactory Minus".

Ignatius Haryanto, executive director of the Press Study and Development Institute (LSPP) in Jakarta, also awarded Thursday's round of debates to Yudhoyono.

"As the incumbent, he enjoys the privilege of knowing the details of the topics discussed and he was able to provide exact figures in the examples he provided in his answers."

According to Ignatius, the president was able to discuss the issues confidently as he tried to emphasize the successful aspects of his leadership, although, he did acknowledge some weaknesses.

"Kalla appeared inferior, partly because he is the incumbent Vice President. Although, it must be said that he can take some credit for the current government's achievements."

Ignatius believes Kalla cannot deny the successes of the current government, but he confident he could do could do a better and faster job, which as the moderator pointed out, was the wish of every government.

"Megawati was the weakest contestant in the debate as she spoke in jargon and failed to clearly elaborate her meaning," Ignatius said.
"She was able to speak about the plight of migrant workers, but failed to present any concrete policies to back up her arguments. Megawati tended to refer more and more to the vision of Indonesia as once envisioned by our founding fathers.
Noting a repeated strategy of the former president, Ignatius said Megawati continuously emphasized and reminded the people that she was the only heir of the country's founding father (Sukarno) among the candidates running in the presidential election.

In terms of sincerity, mastery of topics, effective communication and clarity, Ignatius gave Yudhoyono four out of four points.

Meanwhile, Usman Hamid of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), gave a balanced score of "Three Plus" out of possible five for both Yudhoyono and Kalla during the debate. Megawati on the other hand received a slightly lower score of "Three Minus".

"In delivering their vision or elaborating on issues forwarded, Megawati did not perform optimally. Yudhoyono did quite well in expressing his views in issues related to defense and human rights. Kalla seemed to be more proficient when he spoke on the issue of migrant workers."

According to Usman, the ideological battle between candidates who support and are against the global free market, as is often represented in the campaigns, failed to emerge in the debate.

"Thus the ideological debate is only idle talk simply for the sake of the campaigns."

Nevertheless he welcomed the high level of discourse between candidates on the subject of human rights.

Achmad Sukarsono, co-founder and president of the English Debating Society at the University of Indonesia, saw little substance presented in the debate.

"None of the candidates provided clear proposals that made any of them stand out with better arguments. All of them chose to support similar upright values that provoked no excitement," he said.

The differences among the candidates, he said, lay in style and structure as well as their effectiveness at utilizing chances.

"Known for her aloofness in public speaking, Megawati surprisingly came out calm and collected. She communicated very well in terms of clarity of speech and she tried to hit on down-to-earth examples like the cases of ID cards and Prita, which could have looked less scripted if she gave it more spin."

In terms of structure, Achmad judged Yudhoyono as the best candidate for clearly signposting in the beginning of his speech, and providing clear explanations of his points in an unhurried, flowing fashion.

Kalla in his opinion was by far the worst performer because his speech had no shape and he did not use more than two minutes of his opening speech that could have been used to show his maverick streak. "His focus on reward and punishment in bureaucracy lacked further substantiation."

Yudhoyono, said Achmad, emerged as average, but he won points in structure, knowledge and clarity, while his opponents failed to dent the incumbent when they had the chance.

"The lack of attack from both contenders continued, giving Yudhoyono space to provide factual numbers of Indonesia's defense problem and a clear proposal on his want to hike the defense budget gradually."

"Megawati had the chance to criticizeYudhyono and Kalla when questioned about the Lapindo mud disaster, but she did not bother to put the two people responsible for handling the Lapindo case in the hot seat."

Achmad commended her for staying on par with the traditionalist theme of rebuilding the nation's morals throughout the debate and her consistency made her more prepared than Kalla, who was relaxed and engaging, but delivered no solid advances.

"Megawati showed that she could be comfortable and disciplined in a debate and with a better attack strategy she can test Yudhoyono in the next round. Meanwhile, Kalla needs help in structure so that his jocular nature and eccentricity can translate into clear, laid-out pitches," he said.

The streets of Jakarta saw a mixture of the oblivious and the attentive. Most continued with their evening chores, while others gathered around small television screens to watch with curiousity.

Forty-eight year-old vendor Jaja welcomed the debates to allow the public a first hand look at their future president.

"They were all good, but some were better than others," he replied rather aloofly when asked who he thought won the debates.

"Every time we get a lot of campaign promises. Let's wait and see, but in the past they have been empty promises," he remarked while adding that his expectations were simple: "Affordable food, housing and security".

Tohir, 64, said he really didn't care who was best, "The main thing for me is that Indonesia can develop and progress with a president who can fulfill the needs of the people."

After watching the debate at Palmerah Market, Central Jakarta, trader Sapriudin, 42, said he welcomed the opportunity to know the candidates a bit more.

Was he impressed?

"Yes they all look very good...But they do give a lot of promises, don't they?"

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