The third presidential debate, which is scheduled for Sunday night, will be the first and only vice-presidential candidate debate pitting senior Muslim cleric and non-active Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin against businessman Sandiaga Uno.
Sunday’s debate will revolve around education, health, human resources, social issues and culture.
On the topic of health, experts predicted that the deficit of the National Health Insurance (JKN) scheme and the performance of the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan), the state insurer that runs the program, would come under the candidates’ scrutiny.
“JKN and BPJS will be discussed in the debate and I predict that both candidates are going to strengthen the insurance scheme and present their strategies [to improve it],” Hasbullah Thabrany, a public health professor at the University of Indonesia, said on Friday.
He also said that Ma’ruf must prepare himself with a good defense for the incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s policies as the government had recently come under fire for removing several cancer drugs from the JKN scheme in an attempt to control the deficit.
The head of the Women’s Health Foundation, Zumrotin K. Susilo, said Sandiaga might use the issues surrounding JKN to attack Ma’ruf during the debate.
“[Sandiaga] might bring up access to BPJS and health care for people in rural areas and the eastern part of Indonesia. […] Although many poor people benefit from BPJS, the poor data accuracy of BPJS could leave some of them behind,” Zumrotin said.
The secretary-general of the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI), Heru Purnomo, said that in education, the debate must provide a solution to poor teacher quality and poor student performance despite the government having allocated 20 percent of the state budget annually for education.
“[The government’s] Indonesian Smart Card [KIP] and pre-employment card that the incumbent has revealed are only to create a good image. They don’t really address the education problems,” he said.
International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) executive director Sugeng Bahagijo said that to beat Ma’ruf, Sandiaga, who was Jakarta deputy governor before running in the election, must not only attack, as he and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto did in the previous two debates.
“Sandiaga must come up with solutions and not only attack the incumbent programs. If [the solutions] are not achievable they will be like his flagship One District One Entrepreneurship [OK OCE] program [in Jakarta] which looked grand but failed at the end,” Sugeng said.
“And Ma’ruf must learn to deliver his argument clearly in a short time on the debate night,” Sugeng said.
Ma’ruf, who talked the least during the first debate in January, said he was more than ready to face Sandiaga on Sunday.
He said he would explain about the planned pre-employment card in the debate. The card will be launched by him and Jokowi if they are elected in April.
“Of course I will highlight Jokowi’s flagship programs,” Ma’ruf said on Thursday.
Ma’ruf, who was a lecturer for years with expertise in sharia economics, however, is concerned about the limited time set in the debate.
“I must adjust myself, because I usually talk freely for one or two hours, so when they limit the time of course it is not easy,” said the Muslim cleric, who is also an MUI leader and a revered figure in Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organization.
National Mandate Party (PAN) deputy secretary-general Faldo Maldini said Sandiaga had met with experts and communities and received many insights that would help him in the debate.
“Sandiaga always discusses with Prabowo to find out the root of the welfare problems in Indonesia […] He has also visited 1,400 places in Indonesia to really listen to the people there. […] Insya Allah [God willing] there will be some important issues that will be brought by Sandiaga on Sunday,” Faldo said.