Televised Election Debates

Jun 30th, 2009, in Opinion, by

Lacklustre televised presidential debates are a ruling class ruse, rails Ross.


While IM is giving plenty of attention to the presidential election, it seems useful to start a serious (!) discussion on the so-called ‘debates’ which the Electoral Commission/Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU) is ‘organising’ – some would say reducing to farce with a view to not having any more ever again.

While this week’s televised debate at least had a spark of life to it, when SBY and JK locked horns on the choice of a noodle advert melody as the former’s campaign tune, there would probably be more heated and incisive differences at a temperance league’s discussion of the evils of strong drink. At VP level, Wiranto’s creaky rendering of the national anthem summed up quite well the meaningful and persuasive character of these sessions.

If the candidates were truly as devoid of passion and policies as the ‘debates’ suggest, Indonesia would be well and truly up the creek, but of course they aren’t. I don’t have a vote and am no great fan of any of them, but when they are out on the campaign trail, they show distinct signs of life, so why the stodgy tv stuff?

The media report that it’s all the doing of the KPU, which apparently doesn’t think that confrontation is acceptable to ‘local culture’. This is the ‘submissive native’ drivel, which continues to be a kind of urban legend, despite being disproven in routine activities everywhere, demos, strikes, protests and sundry less dramatic phenomena. It’s hogwash!

If you take angkot public transport daily, you will find that the slightest underpayment of fare by any passenger induces most impressive and stentorian debate; more seriously, the history of these islands is studded with episodes of confrontation and clashes, of which the Balinese – a delightful and friendly folk, mostly, in my experience – provide perhaps the most stunning examples, with their rajas leading their courts into certain death, armed only with ceremonial krises, against Dutch guns. This is ‘submissive’?

My view is that the KPU, and those whose odd thinking they reflect, don’t like the ruling class being criticised, and therefore they discourage that ruling class from being openly at odds, just in case all the people all over Indonesia who are ripped off on a daily basis by the blood-sucking parasites who expect free overseas trips and free cars and free housing and free lap-tops (budgeted at over 30 million rupiah per machine, instead of the 8 million you’d pay in Ratu Plaza) get in on the act.

Once you unleash real and telling critiques on the upper levels, the reverberations all the way down to the peasantry in the fields might just shake the edifice and bring it down.

4 Comments on “Televised Election Debates”

  1. madrotter says:

    beautifully said! i couldn’t agree with you more…

  2. David says:

    I think JK was always going to ‘win’ the debates, he could talk the leg of a chair and he’s funny, Mega would probably rather be talking about her latest shopping spree in Singapore, while SBY has the personality of a house brick – which might make him the best candidate for the job…

  3. Arie Brand says:

    Ross, the idea of the submissive Javanese dates back to colonial times. Multatuli ( Eduard Douwes Dekker) referred to the Javanese as the “gentlest people on earth” in his 1860- “anti colonial” novel “Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company”. Of course when after the Second World War the Dutch got involved in “asymmetrical” warfare with them there was no longer much talk of the “gentlest people ..” etc.

    Still, Java was pre-war certainly not a hotbed of rebellion, even though certain versions of Indonesian history would like to have it that way. It was , rather, characterised by “tranquil tranquillity” (as Multatuli quotes ironically from a “resident’s” (Dutch Bupati’s) report).

    Incidentally, the characterisation of “Max Havelaar” as an anti-colonial novel is only partly correct. It is at least as much an attack on the indigenous aristocracy that saw its repressive practices covered up by the Dutch administration (as Multatuli questionably claims). This was a surprise to the denizens of the Indonesian corridors of power who had obviously not read the novel, cooperated with the filming of it (the Dutch flag was even allowed to be displayed from the presidential palace for a while) but did not like the end product as being too close to the bone.

  4. ET says:

    Whatever the controversies about the character of its writer Multatuli, the ‘Max Havelaar’ should be made compulsory lecture for all SMA students in Indonesia. The Indonesian youth has a right to be aware of its real colonial past instead of the propagandistic humbug that passes for history.

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