No more 'cheat sheets' for other Indonesian election debates

President Joko Widodo speaking during the first presidential debate last Thursday in Jakarta, which was aired live. He and his challenger, Mr Prabowo Subianto, as well as their respective running mates, Dr Ma'ruf Amin and Mr Sandiaga Uno, were provid
President Joko Widodo speaking during the first presidential debate last Thursday in Jakarta, which was aired live. He and his challenger, Mr Prabowo Subianto, as well as their respective running mates, Dr Ma'ruf Amin and Mr Sandiaga Uno, were provided with the questions in advance by Indonesia's General Elections Commission.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA • Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU) will not provide the two presidential candidates with the questions that would be raised at their next public debate after criticism that the first debate last week was uninteresting because they had prepared the answers.

"We will inform the teams of the two candidates in a meeting on Monday," KPU commissioner Pramono Ubaid Tanthowi said, after collecting public feedback, especially from civil society groups, on last Thursday's debate.

The KPU had handed five questions to both presidential candidate pairs several days before the first debate. It defended this move, saying this was to allow them to present ideas comprehensively.

But Mr Jerry Massie, a political observer from the Indonesian Public Institute, urged the KPU not to give any more "cheat sheets" to ensure a better-quality debate.

"The first debate appeared uninteresting and of a poor quality. Anyone can debate (if they receive the questions earlier)," Mr Jerry said, as quoted by Antara news agency. The issues raised in the debate were on corruption, terrorism, human rights and the law.

President Joko Widodo, who is seeking a second term, and his challenger, Mr Prabowo Subianto, as well as their respective running mates, Dr Ma'ruf Amin and Mr Sandiaga Uno, faced off in their first debate at a hotel in South Jakarta.

The debate was aired live over television, radio and on Internet livestreams. There are four more live debates scheduled before the April 17 presidential election.

NOT REALITY SHOW

Election debates are not quizzes or a reality show filled with guessing games. That is not the substance. What voters need are their ideas, visions and missions, not entertainment.

'' KPU COMMISSIONER PRAMONO, who previously said that the debate should be more about presenting ideas than political theatre.

Several experts said before the first debate that providing candidates with the questions would prevent a spontaneous exchange.

But KPU commissioner Pramono had previously said in a statement that the debate should be more about presenting ideas than political theatre.

"Election debates are not quizzes or a reality show filled with guessing games. That is not the substance. What voters need are their ideas, visions and missions, not entertainment."

Asked for his response, vice-presidential candidate Mr Sandiaga said he supported the KPU's decision to enliven the debate.

"Each candidate pair will convey what's on their minds and in their hearts openly and comprehensively without having to be limited by the question list," he was quoted telling the Antara news agency on the sidelines of his campaign activity in Surabaya, East Java, last Saturday.

The second debate is slated for Feb 17 and the topics will include energy, food, natural resources, environment and infrastructure. Only Mr Joko and Mr Prabowo will appear in this debate.

THE JAKARTA POST/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2019, with the headline 'No more 'cheat sheets' for other Indonesian election debates'. Print Edition | Subscribe