Commentary: Indonesia presidential frontrunner Prabowo falters in debate but could win

Anies kicked off his opening statement with an attack on Prabowo’s track record in Cabinet.

Anies, the former Jakarta governor, chided Prabowo that the defence ministry has a large budget but couldn’t protect its website from a 2023 hack. In a bid to up the ante, and apparently referring to Mirage jet fighters from Qatar, Anies said the ministry that Prabowo leads plans to buy used primary weaponry hardware but half its troops don’t have housing.

According to the 2024 state budget, the defence sector is allocated 139.1 trillion rupiah (US$9.27 billion) or 5.6 per cent of total central government expenditure.

Ganjar piled in, also questioning the purchase of used jet fighters, which would require three years training for air force personnel as part of the technology transfer.

Appearing ruffled, Prabowo explained that military aircraft and warships have a 25 to 30 year life span. The plan to buy Mirage fighters from Qatar, he said, was no problem as they could still fly another 15 years, and buying new planes requires a longer delivery period of up to seven years.

Ganjar then sought to turn the debate to defence strategy, declaring he would prioritise naval capacity.

“No attack will come overland as Indonesia is an archipelago. Thus, the sea must be fortified,” Ganjar replied to a question from Prabowo on what defence area he would prioritise and how the budget would be increased to satisfy that need.

He said the Indonesian Navy has told him it needs sensor technology and sonars to guard the country from seaborne attack. Ganjar pledged to increase the defence budget up to 2 per cent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product – up from 0.78 per cent presently. This can be achieved by boosting economic growth from the present 5 per cent to 7 per cent, Ganjar said, allowing domestic defence industries to build tanks, helicopters and submarines, and enhance cyber technology.

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