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Jakarta Post

Prabowo proposes himself as panacea for country's ills

  • Karina M. Tehusijarana, Marguerite Afra Sapiie, and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 15, 2019   /   05:43 pm
Prabowo proposes himself as panacea for country's ills Wooing the nation: Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (left), accompanied by his running mate Sandiaga Uno, addresses an audience with a speech called “Indonesia Menang” (Indonesia triumphs) inside the Jakarta Convention Center in Jakarta on Monday. (The Jakarta Post/Iqbal Yuwansyah)

Gerindra Party chairman and presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto detailed a multitude of ills plaguing Indonesia in his campaign speech on Monday evening, citing problems ranging from an overburdened national healthcare system to a struggling economy.

He depicted a country where farmers and teachers hang themselves because of financial pressures, hospitals turn sick people away because the Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan) has not reimbursed them, and state-owned enterprises are going under.

"It is easy to say that Indonesia will last for a thousand years," he said. "But can a country that cannot pay hospitals, that cannot guarantee food for its people, that doesn't have a strong military, last for a thousand years?"

His solution to the many and varied problems: vote for him in the upcoming presidential election.

"The victory that we can achieve on April 17, 2019, is not Prabowo's victory, not Sandiaga Uno's victory, but the victory of the Indonesian nation," he said.

Politicians from the coalition supporting President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's reelection bid have called out the speech as being overly pessimistic.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said Prabowo's rhetoric belittled the achievements of the Jokowi administration and would only result in him losing votes.

"What was communicated in the speech is consistent with Pak Prabowo's character: attacking and minimizing Indonesia's achievements," he said in a statement on Tuesday, citing the success of events such as the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games as examples.

"Minimizing the achievements of Jokowi and [Vice President] Jusuf Kalla will only reduce Prabowo and Sandi's electability, not only in Java and Sulawesi, but also in Sumatra, Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara, Papua and other parts of eastern Indonesia that have felt the effects of Jokowi and JK's policies," he said.

Golkar Party politician and Jokowi campaign team spokesperson Ace Hasan Syadzily called the speech clichéd and "lacking fresh ideas."

"Everything is portrayed as bad, miserable, backward and dependent," he said on Tuesday. "That way Prabowo can act as the savior."

Ace likened Prabowo's speech to those made by United States President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. "[Prabowo] is stirring up sentiment and emotion by using dramatic examples without being backed up by accurate data and facts."

Fellow campaign spokesperson and NasDem Party lawmaker Irma Suryani Chaniago echoed Ace's sentiments, saying that everything seemed bad in Prabowo's eyes.

"A nationalistic speech should be filled with optimism, not negative thinking and pessimism toward one's own country," she said. "A pessimistic leader cannot bring Indonesia forward because he will lack ideas and be quick to give up."

Analysts, however, said Prabowo's speech was typical of the type of rhetoric opposition candidates used when running against incumbents.

Firman Noor, head of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Political Research Center, compared his speech to those made by United Kingdom opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"Prabowo is criticizing the government and pointing out things he thinks he can improve upon, such as food self-sufficiency and fuel self-sufficiency," he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He said Prabowo's "pessimistic" tone was less motivated by a sincere belief that the country was close to destruction, but rather as a starting point for Prabowo and his team to make the argument against voting for the incumbent.

This is not the first time the former general has expressed a gloomy outlook for the country. In March 2018, he said Indonesia could break up by 2030, while last month he said Indonesia could become “extinct” if he did not prevail in the upcoming elections.

"The rhetoric is designed to attract attention to his arguments, because it might lack impact otherwise," Firman said. "Whether it will be effective in persuading voters remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the electorate is very divided right now."

Paramadina University political communication analyst Hendri Satrio said that while Prabowo was an effective orator, the content of his speech lacked variety and needed freshening up.

He disagreed, however, that the speech was overly pessimistic. "Even though there were elements of fear, there were elements of hope also," he said. "But he needs to be more specific about the programs that he is offering to have more of an impact."