SBY cruising to victory in Indonesia's presidential elections | Asia Pacific

SBY cruising to victory in Indonesia's presidential elections

SBY cruising to victory in Indonesia's presidential elections

Updated 6 January 2012, 11:00 AEDT

In three weeks, Indonesians will vote for their president in an election that will determine the pace of reform in Southeast Asia's biggest and most influential country.

The incumbent president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has gone in for debates with his rivals - former president Megawati Sukurnoputri and vice president Jusuf Kalla - on issues ranging from the rule of law to human rights and good governance.

Presenter: Sen Lam, presenter of Radio Australia's Connect Asia programme

Speaker: Wimar Witoelar, former Indonesian presidential spokesman, Jakarta

WIToeLAR: Oh, I don't think it has to much baring on the way people will vote, but it is a very strong testimonial to the fact that our presidential elections are very open and the candidates are very accessible and public participation is very strong.

LAM: So give us an overview of the race so far. Would you say that SBY and his running mate, Boediono are doing well in the campaigning?

WIToeLAR: The credible polls, because we have all kinds of polls, but the five most credible polls are invariably have been showing Susilo Bambang Yudhyono leading with a majority of above 50 per cent. Typically the last poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute showed Yudhyono at 67 per cent and the Jusuf Kalla, 14 per cent and the Megawati Prabowo at 8 per cent, but that is just off the top of my head. You can find it on any web site.

LAM: Mmm, But it would seem that the gaps are quite big?

WIToeLAR: Yes, and it is quite significant in the system which we have is if nobody wins a clear majority of 50 per cent plus, you would have to go to a run off election between the two top candidates. So if somebody gets about 50 per cent, it means we will have result of the election by July 8 and that would save a lot of well not only time, but a lot of uncertainty.

LAM: Do you think away from the centre, away from Jakarta that voters outside from the centre have tapped into what the key issues are or are people voting on personalities?

WITOLEAR: Outside of the centre, people are voting on emotional sound bites not even personality, because they have no clear idea of the personalities, but now the campaigns are quite slick in terms of television packaging, advertorials and radio, so you have quite modern presentation technique appearing in some cases to the emotions of the public and in another case, to rational explanations of policy and challenges.

LAM: So in terms of policy, Megawati and the former military man, Prabowo are campaigning for a pro-people economy. Do you think their message of poverty alleviation, do you think that's seeping through to the countryside?

WITOLEAR: Well, it's not only seeping through, but it's being hammered to the countryside by a very expensive campaign and even direct cash transfers and also appealing to the emotion of dissatisfaction towards the current condition. But of course anyone who knows Indonesia is that the countryside has been dissatisified for generations and they do not really respond to calls for change. They do respond to people who pay attention, who give them promises and maybe who give them handouts.

LAM: And Wimar, just as a matter of interest to certainly Western observers. Megawati Sukurnoputri, was notorious for not speaking to the media, for not just speaking off the cuff. How has she been performing in these debates?

WITOLEAR: She has been speaking a lot off the cuff by text, giving interviews and if I were her adviser I think her previous mode of silence is much better for her.

LAM: You don't think she has anything worthwhile to say?

WITOLEAR: Well, I'm just saying in silence, she is more appealing than when she speaks.

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