Indonesian Presidential contenders gear up for debate

Indonesia’s presidential contenders are all set to debate critical issues related to the country and its defence situation to address regional challenges and conflicts.

As Indonesia braces for its third election debate, contenders for its presidential election are set to discuss key issues encompassing geopolitics, international relations, defence, and security. The debate comes at a time of heightened regional tensions and calls for Indonesia to bolster its preparedness for potential conflicts. Among the pressing topics expected to be addressed are the recent Rohingya refugee influx into Sumatra and the modernization of the Indonesian Military (TNI). Foreign policy analysts are eager to hear the candidates’ strategic approaches in navigating superpower rivalries that pose threats to the region.

The three main contenders—former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo—will present their perspectives on Sunday night. Prabowo’s camp highlights his four years as defence minister, emphasizing his understanding of the country’s defence and security priorities as military modernization efforts progress.

The modernization of the TNI, a longstanding effort initiated in 2005, faces challenges such as low weapons procurement. Prabowo, having engaged with weapons-producing countries during his tenure, aims to showcase his military track record during the debate.

Ganjar-Mahfud, another presidential pair, advocates for expanding the defence budget and building a robust domestic defence industry to meet the Minimum Essential Force (MEF) requirements. While expressing disagreement with some of Prabowo’s decisions as defence minister, Ganjar emphasizes the importance of sound defence procurement practices.

Anies-Muhaimin’s campaign team hints at Anies Baswedan’s readiness to discuss weapons acquisition and budgeting. The team suggests that the former Jakarta governor might also address the pressing issue of Rohingya refugees, whose sudden influx into Aceh and North Sumatra has sparked local tensions.

One of the critical aspects expected to be explored in the debate is how Indonesia plans to navigate the tensions between the United States and China in its strategic foreign policy. Analysts emphasize the importance of a nuanced approach to balance engagement with both superpowers amid the regional rivalry.

As the debate unfolds, questions surrounding ASEAN’s role in maintaining regional stability and addressing challenges such as the South China Sea and the Rohingya crisis will likely be at the forefront. The televised debate, scheduled at Istora Senayan in Jakarta, offers a crucial platform for the candidates to articulate their visions on defence, foreign policy, and regional diplomacy.