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Prabowo or Jokowi: What's the policy difference?

Prabowo or Jokowi: What's the policy difference?
Published 4 Jun 2014 

As Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is jets to Jakarta for a fence-mending meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia is getting ready to vote for SBY's replacement, with the presidential poll set for 9 July.

Prabowo Subianto and Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo have emerged as the two rival candidates. What do they stand for?

The public personas of the two candidates are in sharp contrast. Prabowo is a grandstanding would-be strongman, and Jokowi is a self-styled man of the people who makes frequent visits to low-income communities. In terms of policy, however, the differences are less clear.

When registering their bids for the presidency last week, the two candidates also filed their vision and mission statements for the top office. The most remarkable difference is that Prabowo plans to develop Indonesia from the top down, while Jokowi's approach is mainly bottom-up.

Prabowo's vision is 'To develop an Indonesia that is united, sovereign, fair and prosperous, as well as dignified'. Jokowi's is 'The creation of an Indonesia that is sovereign, independent and has an identity based on gotong royong', a philosophy of working together towards a common goal. There are overlapping themes of sovereignty, self-sufficiency and unity, but the mention of gotong royong in the Jokowi team's statement is key — it suggests that national development is something done by the nation, not the state.

The Jokowi mission statement is broken down into actions based on nine ideals or Nawacita, guided by the three principles of Trisakti and the five principles of the national ideology, Pancasila. This mystical-sounding composition is reminiscent of the rhetoric of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, and it's supposed to be. This colourful piece in New Mandala last week argued that both presidential candidates are aiming to embody Sukarno's charisma in various ways. [fold]

To briefly outline Jokowi's mission statement, the aims are to regain public trust in institutions, develop Indonesia from the periphery, support law enforcement, raise the quality of life for citizens, increase productivity and competitiveness, develop economic independence, and bring about a revolution of the national character and culture (see this earlier piece on Jokowi's 'mental revolution').

National development is viewed as a task for the entire nation. Mention is made of public participation in governance, capacity-building for local governments and boosting civic education in schools to put nation-building in the hands of the people. Policies that echo Jokowi's experience as mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta include strong investment in making health and education services accessible, and revitalising traditional markets. Special mention is also made of protecting human rights and addressing past cases of human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Prabowo's mission statement is presented as a 'Real Agenda and Program to Save Indonesia', set out in eight parts. The statement is much shorter than the Jokowi team's (nine pages compared to Jokowi's 42) but is very specific in its goals.

Where Jokowi talks about raising quality of life for citizens, Prabowo puts a number on it, aiming to raise minimum per capita income from Rp 35 million ($3224) a year to Rp 60 million ($5527). Where Jokowi mentions capacity-building for local governments, Prabowo pledges Rp 1 billion ($92,145) of state budget allocation for local governments to carry out development projects. Jokowi's mention of food security is matched by Prabowo's aim to open two million hectares of land for food production. A highly detailed section is devoted to aims for the agricultural sector, presumably influenced by Prabowo's connections with the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI), of which he has been reelected as chairman and draws a broad base of electoral support.

Overlaps with Jokowi's mission are found in Prabowo's aim for civic education in the school curriculum based on the principles of Pancasila, investing in health and education services for the poor, 'free and active' foreign policy and ridding the government of corruption 'to protect the people'. Protection of human rights is also identified as an element of good governance, though the possibility of addressing past abuses is not discussed. This is not surprising, given Prabowo's struggle to escape accusations of human rights abuses, which he denies as 'slander'.

In the Prabowo statement, it's clear that 'saving Indonesia' is the task of its leaders, not its citizens. The proposed solutions of putting the right amount of money in the right place seem reasonable in theory, but in practice there's no guarantee that the money would reach its intended target. Governance at the regional level remains weak and corruption is a major problem. Wealth generated by Indonesia's natural resources struggles to trickle through government and business and into the hands of the people. While the Jokowi statement seems softer in this regard, its proposed strategy of enhancing the capacity of local governments and turning the national eye to the regions, if successful, would have a much greater impact on national prosperity. But Jokowi is not clear about how this would be achieved.

The vision and mission statements submitted by Prabowo and Jokowi give a good indication of the ideology that would steer policy direction for each as the leader of the country. Prabowo's statement is more specific, though not necessarily effective, while Jokowi's has the potential to be effective, if it can be more specific. Prabowo's plans for national development are reminiscent of Suharto, the Father of Development (Bapak Pembangunan), while Jokowi's are framed as a continuation of reform in the post-Suharto era. Both are looking forward, though one refuses to look back on certain aspects of the New Order.

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