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So who stole the show?

Sumber: THEJAKARTAPOST.COM | Tgl terbit: Rabu, 24 Juni 2009

Tuesday night saw the second session of the nation's first official debates for the presidential/vice presidential race, featuring candidates for the second top job. The following are the assessments of observers who followed the broadcast of the event.

The first of two vice presidential debates showed the public that Boediono, the running mate of the incumbent, could do much more than mumble about the economy.

The former central bank governor failed to deliver punchy rhetorics like his rivals, but had "the most comprehensive definition of national identity," the theme of the debate, said a political observer from the Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung, Aleksius Jemadu.

"It was clearly mentioned that national identity consists of four pillars: culture, politics, economy and law," Aleksius said.

Boediono, a professor, elaborated further on what needs to be done in each of these four elements.

"The winners of the vice presidential debate are Boediono and Wiranto", the running mate of Jusuf Kalla.

However, he only graded both VP candidates 3 out of 5, with Wiranto lacking clarity in spelling out solutions to national identity, he said.

Prabowo Subianto, the running mate of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, has come out strong in nationalist rhetoric in his campaigns. But in the debate Aleksius said he had overemphasized the economy in its role to develop national identity.

Wiranto only stressed the national movement on discipline, while Boediono also cited the practice of good governance, Aleksius said.

"That way public officials will set good examples for the citizens in building good character as a respectable nation."

Following the debate, which many said was still disappointing compared to the high expectations of having two retired officers, Prabowo and Wiranto, in the race, a former campus activist said university students would have done much better in the debate.

"Prabowo provoked strong economic nationalism rhetoric, Boediono was cerebral in all aspects related to good governance while Wiranto showed off his karaoke skills. Unfortunately, none showed effectiveness," said Achmad Sukarsono, who founded an English debate club at the University of Indonesia.

"Prabowo went undertime in the opening statement and overtime in responses, Boediono lullabied the audience with his content-laden but flat lectures and Wiranto serenaded with songs and worn-out Soehartoesque rhetorics, instead of using an intelligent argument to bring forth his nationalist points."

Achmad said Prabowo nevertheless gave the best performance because of his points that Indonesia should escape from its "loser state" reputation and foreign economic dominance.

"Prabowo could insert that theme in all topics without sounding too mundane. I may not agree with him but his points came across clearly.

"I think he intended to attack Boediono's closeness to foreign economic players, but he did not get a clear opening in the cross-examination session."

Achmad added Boediono's answers were thoughtful and smart, particularly on how the state should harmonize, not dictate, religious affairs and how local governments should not block economic mobility that encouraged integration.

But his delivery "was too academic and too "Javanese".

Wiranto came last in Achmad's judgment for his convoluted answers and tendency to sing or spit out one-liners "that reminded me of Soeharto-era indoctrination".

"His choices are too old for today's Indonesia. His suggestion of a national discipline program just felt too New Order.

"All in all, the debate still did not produce exchanges of arguments that voters wanted to see."

Achmad gave a grade of 3 or average to Boediono and Prabowo while Wiranto has to be content with 2 out of 5.

Political analyst J. Kristiadi from the Centre for Strategic International Studies said he was surprised by Boediono's performance.

"I didn't expect that Boediono, as an economist, could explain all of the issues so comprehensively, and be so well-articulated, without being too rhetorical.

"The only session that Boediono lost was on the *state and religion' question. I think Wiranto was better on that one, he explained the connection between the government and religion very substantially."

Prabowo came out strongest on the issue of transportation accidents, but overall "his answers were essentially lame", he said.

Kristiadi made his five-scale grading where Boediono got 4.5 or Wiranto 4 and Prabowo 2.5

Ignatius Haryanto, executive director of the Institute for Press and Development Studies, said Prabowo said a lot about Indonesian assets being sold to foreign countries, but without elaboration.

Ignatius said he was curious that all candidates said they were not worried about regional movements.

"Wiranto was interesting, with the singing and all. Although in the beginning he was rather abstract, later he picked up tempo with concrete examples. His comment on airplane crashes was also well-put."

Wiranto's mention of the national discipline movement was good, he said, "but he did not mention the many discriminative bylaws and laws".

Dividing their performances by sincerity, mastery of issues, body language, clarity, and effective communication, Ignatius gave Prabowo a 3 out of 5 for each category.

"Boediono also gets 3 points for each except sincerity: 4. Wiranto gets all 4 except body language, which is 3," the writer said.

Usman Hamid, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) gave all three candidates 3 minus when asked to respond to issues of national identity, such as conflicts, social disparity and relations of church and state.

Strangely, Usman said, all three failed to mention the issue of foreign interference, which has come out strongly in their campaigns.



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