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Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls face off in debate

Indonesia’s presidential candidates held a second debate on Sunday, where they discussed defence, geopolitics, and diplomacy. Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan will compete in a February 14 election to lead the world’s largest archipelagic nation. Nearly 205 million people are eligible to cast their ballots in the vote, aiming to determine the successor of President Joko Widodo after his 10-year tenure. Frontrunner Subianto stated that if elected, he would strive to maintain positive relationships with all global powers in line with Indonesia’s “non-aligned” foreign policy. “With good relations with all powers, we can secure our national interests,” Subianto said in the debate broadcasted across Indonesian television screens. “A thousand friends are too few, one adversary is one too many. We will pursue a good neighbour policy”. The former special forces general emphasised the importance of bolstering military power to defend independence as he expressed concern about situations akin to the challenging circumstances faced by Gaza during the Israel-Hamas conflict. Indonesia is a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence. It has called for a resolution to the conflict based on internationally agreed parameters set by the United Nations, which include a two-state solution. – South China Sea proposal – Pranowo outlined a proposal for a temporary agreement on the disputed South China Sea, underlining Indonesia’s status as a non-claimant in the region. He said the temporary agreement was necessary in light of China’s ongoing military modernisation, expected to be finalised by 2027. “[The resolution efforts] have been more than 20 years, and there has been no progress,” he said. He also pitched the need to strengthen patrols by the Indonesian navy. “We need floating tankers that can be used by our Navy to patrol. This makes logistics very cost-effective,” he said. – Soft power – Baswedan raised the issue of non-traditional threats such as a rise in hacking incidents, pledging the establishment of a cyber defence structure. “The key doesn’t solely lie in the technology itself. The essence lies in the comprehensive involvement of everyone,” he said. He also said that he would make Indonesia a decisive leader in the global setting, not “merely a spectator”, through its soft power such as the arts. “Through these efforts, we aim to make Indonesia both a gracious host in its own land and a charming guest in other countries”. Subianto is ahead of his rivals in opinion polls since choosing Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the president’s eldest son, as his vice presidential candidate. Pranowo is far behind in second place. Recent surveys suggest that Baswedan, in third place, might have a chance to beat Pranowo and be in the second-round runoff vote.

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