One of the most conspiracy-minded “con artists” who sought to elevate and enrich himself by posing as a technical expert during the Arizona Senate GOP’s flawed review of the 2020 presidential election is returning to Maricopa County on October 1, where he is pushing a new â€“ and easily-debunked â€“ conspiracy theory about how 2020 votes were forged.
“I’m just going to explain a few things here that I think you need to look at. But there’s many â€“ there’s much more work we have to do,” said Jovan Pulitzer, in a video posted online this week (and then taken down) that was recorded by AUDIT Elections USA, an Arizona-based advocacy group seeking more transparent vote counts. “I’m doing this because we can’t move on.”
Pulitzer, who rented a theater in Tempe where he will speak and host other election deniers, is alleging that a handful of accessible voting stations that assist voters with disabilities were used to hijack votes for Joe Biden. These computers have a touchscreen to register votes and a printer that produces a filled-out ballot card. A separate scanner then counts the votes.
“It is well-known that these voting machines have features built into them under the auspices of protection or equal access for people with disabilities that can be used nefariously,” he said. “I call this hiding in plain sight. They’ve always had the ability to modify the vote.”
Pulitzer is claiming that Maricopa County’s accessible voting stations hijacked Trump votes by using an on-board library of images to fill in the ovals next to Biden’s name.
“We have to look at, on all these ballots, 188,056,260 ovals â€“ yes, 188,056,260 ovals â€“ and you have to look at them all individually,” he said.
“This is made-up nonsense,” said John Brakey, AUDIT Elections USA executive director. “He’s talking about machines there that don’t even exist. He doesn’t even realize that 91 percent of the county’s [presidential] ballots were mailed out and came back in a signed envelope.”
Election officials in Maricopa County, where 1.2 million people voted for president, quickly pointed to evidence that showed why Pulitzer’s claims are yet another false narrative.
Maricopa County’s voting stations for voters with disabilities, called ballot-marking devices, do not print out ballots with any filled-in ovals. They print out human-readable text of the voter’s selections and a QR code (a dot matrix) of those choices that is read by a scanner. Thus, the claim about deliberately misprinted ballot ovals has no basis in reality. Pulitzer’s narrative, ignorantly or deceptively, relies on a voting system that Maricopa County does not use.
Further, the volume of presidential votes cast on Maricopa County’s ballot-marking stations is nowhere near Biden’s 10,457-vote statewide margin over Trump. As the county noted in a post-election report, only 454 people used the accessible voting stations in the presidential election. There’s no way that Pulitzer’s alleged forgeries would have affected the outcome.
Moreover, the ballots printed by the marking device computers are smaller (8.5 inches by 11 inches) than the traditional ballot cards (8.5 inches by 19 inches) issued to all other voters at voting sites. Here, again, the factual evidence is easy to account for, and does not support any claim that accessible voting devices could have altered the election’s results.
Maricopa County is the second most populous election jurisdiction in America. Only Los Angeles County has more voters. Its election department is highly professional, as seen by the data that it compiles and issues. In early 2022, it issued one of the country’s most comprehensive and technical refutations of every stolen election allegation posed after Trump’s loss.
That report was overseen by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who voted for Trump but felt compelled to defend the county’s election administration after the Arizona Senate Republicans sanctioned an “audit” led by Cyber Ninjas, a pro-Trump IT firm.
Pulitzer had a unique and influential role in that error-plagued audit â€“ which failed in multiple attempts to account for every ballot cast (a starting-line inventory control step) but concluded that Biden had won (without evidence that could be replicated).
Most of the sophisticated equipment that filled the floor of Phoenix’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum â€“ the tables of overhead cameras and microscopes â€“ was prompted by Pulitzer, who told others that he was looking for signs of forgeries, including bamboo fibers in paper ballots that he said would prove that 40,000 ballots had been forged in Asia and smuggled, somehow unseen and undetected, into Maricopa County’s voting operations.
When the Cyber Ninjas and other IT contractors sanctioned by the Senate Republicans issued their findings in September 2021, the state legislators did not include Pulitzer’s forgery theory or analysis on its webpage. Nor did they invite him to present his findings in any forum.
“Jovan Hutton Pulitzer is a con artist who is a master of hoaxes and frauds,” Brakey wrote in an email during the audit where he was an observer. “[The] following are links to various sources that discredit him entirely. Please note that his so-called Wikipedia page is a FAKE page made up by him with the URL of his website, NOT the [real] Wikipedia URL. Pulitzer changed his name from Jeffrey Jovan Philyaw. He also goes by J. Hutton Pulitzer. He did invent CueCat, which PC World called ‘one of the 25 worst inventions of all time.'”
Pulitzer’s latest claims may be easily debunked before his upcoming event in Tempe, but it shows how determined 2020 election deniers remain as 2022’s general election approaches.
Independent Media Institute____________________
Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.
Public Hype Over Indonesia VP Candidate Gibran After ‘rude’ Gesture Against Opponent in Live Debate
The performance of Indonesian vice-presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka who is also the son of incumbent President Joko Widodo – has come under fire for his seemingly rude antics during a live debate over the weekend.
It was a stark contrast to the buzz generated by him last month following a second debate organised by Indonesiaâ€™s General Election Commission (KPU) that saw Gibran stacking up against his more experienced rivals, with some netizens now calling the antics of the presidentâ€™s eldest son as cringe.
The debate on Sunday (Jan 21) was the fourth in a series of five debates where presidential candidates and their running mates try to lure voters to the polling booth by promising what they could do should they be elected as Indonesiaâ€™s next leaders in the upcoming election on Feb 14.
Sundayâ€™s debate saw the vice-presidential candidates discuss issues such as energy, carbon tax, environment as well as agrarian matters among others.
During the debate involving the three vice-presidential candidates, Gibran – who is the running mate of defence minister Prabowo Subianto made a â€œduckingâ€ gesture and pretended to search for a lost item, in response to an answer that was given by his rival, Mahfud MD.Â Mahfud is running in the election alongside former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo.
The third vice presidential candidate is Muhaimin Iskandar a seasoned politician who has paired up with former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan.
Gibran had earlier quizzed Mahfud about how greenflation can be dealt with in the country. Greenflation refers to inflation caused by green initiatives.
In response, however, Mahfud spoke about the green economy instead of greenflation.
â€œI was looking for Prof Mahfud’s answer. I was looking for (the answer but) how come I couldn’t find (it)?â€ asked Gibran while making the â€œduckingâ€ gesture.
â€œI asked about the issue of green inflation, but you explained the green economy instead.â€
Mahfud then claimed that Gibran was â€œ(making) things up out of thin airâ€.
â€œIf an academic asks a question like that, it’s not worth answering. There is no point in answering,â€ he retorted.
On social media platform X, a post featuring videos of the interaction gained over 2.5 million views in less than a day.
Trump mocks Nikki Haleyâ€™s first name. Itâ€™s his latest example of attacking rivals based on race
â€œYou have to dissect politics as politics. Itâ€™s not personal,â€ said Scott. â€œHeâ€™s not intending to demean her or degrade her in any way. Heâ€™s just doing that to garner votes.â€
Donald Trump used his social media platform Friday to mock Nikki Haley â€˜s birth name, the latest example of the former president keying on race and ethnicity to attack people of color, especially his political rivals.
In a post on his Truth Social account, Trump repeatedly referred to Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, as â€œNimbra.â€ Haley, the former South Carolina governor, was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, as Nimarata Nikki Randhawa. She has always gone by her middle name, â€œNikki.â€ She took the surname â€œHaleyâ€ upon her marriage in 1996.
Trump, himself the son, grandson and twice the husband of immigrants, called Haley â€œNimbraâ€ three times in the post and said she â€œdoesnâ€™t have what it takes.â€
The attack comes four days before the New Hampshire primary, in which Haley is trying to establish herself as the only viable Trump alternative in the Republicansâ€™ 2024 nominating contest.
Trumpâ€™s post was an escalation of recent attacks in which he referenced Haleyâ€™s given first name â€” though heâ€™s misspelled it â€œNimradaâ€ â€” and falsely asserted she is ineligible for the presidency because her parents were not U.S. citizens when she was born in 1972.
The attacks echo Trumpâ€™s â€œbirtherâ€ rhetoric against President Barack Obama. Trump spent years pushing the conspiracy theory that the nationâ€™s first Black president was born in Kenya and not a â€œnatural bornâ€ U.S. citizen as required by the Constitution. That effort was part of Trumpâ€™s rise among Republicansâ€™ most culturally conservative base ahead of his 2016 election that surprised much of the U.S. political establishment.
Haley has dismissed Trumpâ€™s latest attacks as proof that she threatens his bid for a third consecutive nomination.
â€œIâ€™ll let people decide what he means by his attacks,â€ Haley told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday when asked about Trumpâ€™s false assertions that her heritage disqualifies her from the Oval Office. â€œWhat we know is, look, heâ€™s clearly insecure if he goes and does these temper tantrums, if heâ€™s spending millions of dollars on TV. Heâ€™s insecure, he knows that somethingâ€™s wrong.â€
Trumpâ€™s campaign did not reply to an inquiry about his comments.
Since Mondayâ€™s Iowa caucuses â€” which Trump won by 30 points over Ron DeSantis, who placed second â€” Haley has aimed to portray the rest of the GOP primary battle as a two-way race between Trump and herself despite her narrow third-place finish. Haleyâ€™s campaign is aiming for a stronger showing in New Hampshire, hoping for a springboard into her home state South Carolina, which holds the Southâ€™s first presidential primary next month.
For his part, Trump bounces between declarations that the nominating fight is already effectively over and blasting Haley as if the two are indeed locked in a tight contest. Trump still criticizes his other remaining rival, DeSantis, but his preferred pejoratives for the Florida governor, â€œRon DeSanctimoniousâ€ or â€œRon DeSanctus,â€ have nothing to do with race or ethnicity. DeSantis is white.
Trumpâ€™s focus on Haleyâ€™s name comes as far-right online forums have for months been littered with mentions of her given name alongside racist commentary and false â€œbirtherâ€ claims. Haleyâ€™s name and family background also have become talking points on the left. Some widely circulating social media posts have called her a hypocrite for saying America was â€œnever a racist countryâ€ when she likely experienced racism herself.
Pastor Darrell Scott, a Black man who has led a diversity coalition for Trumpâ€™s previous campaigns, defended the former presidentâ€™s latest attacks as â€œslings and arrowsâ€ that come in election season.
â€œYou have to dissect politics as politics. Itâ€™s not personal,â€ said Scott. â€œHeâ€™s not intending to demean her or degrade her in any way. Heâ€™s just doing that to garner votes.â€
Scott said Trump â€œhas a compassionate side that most people donâ€™t seeâ€ and defended his aggressive approach as a â€œgoose-and-gander situationâ€ for a public figure constantly â€œunder attack for everything.â€
Tara Setmayer, senior adviser to the Lincoln Project group that opposes Trump from within the conservative movement, agreed that Trumpâ€™s rhetoric works in a Republican primary. But she said thatâ€™s a damning reality for the party and does not excuse his behavior.
â€œThese are the rantings of an incredibly, almost pathetically insecure man who has demonstrated over his entire career his racism and bigotry,â€ said Setmayer, who is multiracial and calls herself a former Republican and now a conservative independent. â€œWhy would anyone expect it to be any different now, when an entire political party has enabled this level of morally questionable behavior?â€
Amid the fallout Friday, Trump won the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the Senateâ€™s only Black Republican and formerly a presidential candidate himself. Haley appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012, during her first term as governor.
Trump has a long history of using race, ethnicity and immigrant heritage as a cudgel.
For years, he has referred to Obama as â€œBarack Hussein Obama,â€ putting an obvious emphasis on the 44th presidentâ€™s middle name. Obama was the son of a white American mother and a Black father from Kenya. He was born in Hawaii, though Trump spent years asserting Obama had manufactured the story and a birth certificate to support it. Trump eventually admitted his claims were false but then, during the 2016 general election, said he did so only to â€œget on with the campaign.â€
When David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, encouraged Republican primary voters to back Trump in 2016, Trump responded in a CNN interview that he knew â€œnothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists.â€
Trump is also among many Republicans who deliberately mispronounce Vice President Kamala Harrisâ€™s name. Rather than the correct â€œKA’-ma-la,â€ Trump sometimes says, â€œKa-MAH-la.â€ Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, is the first woman to become vice president and the third non-white person as either president or vice president, following Obama and Charles Curtis, Herbert Hooverâ€™s vice president who had Native American ancestry.
Leading up to Trumpâ€™s 2017 inauguration, civil rights icon John Lewis, then a Black congressman from Georgia, said he would not attend Trumpâ€™s inauguration because he considered him an illegitimate president. Trump reacted by blasting Lewisâ€™s Atlanta-based district as being in â€œhorrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested).â€ The district includes downtown Atlanta, Coca-Colaâ€™s world headquarters, the Georgia Institute of Technology and principal sites of the 1996 Olympic Games, among other attributes.
During his presidency, Trump questioned during a meeting with lawmakers why the U.S. would accept immigrants from Haiti and â€œshithole countriesâ€ across Africa instead of countries like Norway. He did not explicitly mention race but the White House followed disclosure of his comments with a statement explaining that Trump supported granting access to the U.S. for â€œthose who can contribute to our society.â€
He also has said that four congresswomen of color should go back to the â€œbroken and crime infestedâ€ countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all of the women are American citizens and three were born in the U.S.
Trumpâ€™s mother was born Mary Anne MacLeod in Scotland and came to the United States between the two world wars. His paternal grandfather, Frederick Trump, was a Barvarian-born immigrant from Germany in the 1880s. Trumpâ€™s first wife, Ivana ZelnÃÄkovÃ¡ before their marriage, was born in what is now the Czech Republic. His third wife, former first lady Melania Trump, was born Melanija Knavs in what is now Slovenia. That means four of Trumpâ€™s five children also are children of immigrants.
Haley frames her familyâ€™s story as proof that the U.S. â€œis not a racist country.â€ She sometimes highlights her role in taking down the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina statehouse grounds after a racist massacre in her state â€” though she had sidestepped requests to remove the banner earlier in her term. And Haley has for years navigated Trumpâ€™s penchant for racist rhetoric.
â€œI will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK,â€ Haley said during the 2016 primary campaign after she had endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio over Trump. â€œThat is not a part of our party; that is not who we want as president.â€
Donald Trumpâ€™s Grip on Republican Politics is Put to The Test in Ice-Cold Iowaâ€™s Caucuses
Donald Trumpâ€™s rally was briefly interrupted by protesters in Iowa Sundayâ€” the first time itâ€™s happened in years. â€œYouâ€™ve taken millions!â€ a woman shouted as Trump was mid-rally, prompting the crowd to respond with a â€œTrump!â€ chant to drown her out. (Jan. 14)
Voting is set to begin Monday night in icy Iowa as former President Donald Trump eyes a victory that would send a resounding message that neither life-threatening cold nor life-changing legal trouble can slow his march toward the Republican Partyâ€™s 2024 nomination.
The Iowa caucuses, which are the opening contest in the months-long Republican presidential primary process, begin at 8 p.m. EST. Caucus participants will gather inside more than 1,500 schools, churches and community centers to debate their options, in some cases for hours, before casting secret ballots.
While Trump projects confidence, his onetime chief rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is fighting for his political survival in a make-or-break race for second place. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the only woman in the race, stands in DeSantisâ€™ way. The two have competed aggressively in recent weeks to emerge as the clear alternative to the former president, who has alienated many Americans and could end up being a convicted felon by yearâ€™s end.
â€œI absolutely love a lot of the things (Trump) did, but his personality is just kind of getting in his way,â€ said Hans Rudin, a 49-year-old community college adviser from Council Bluffs, Iowa. He said he supported Trump in the past two elections, but will caucus for DeSantis on Monday.
Polls suggest Trump enters the day with a massive lead in Iowa as Haley and DeSantis duel for a distant second. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson are also on the ballot, as is former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who suspended his campaign last week.
With the coldest temperatures in caucus history expected and dangerous travel conditions in virtually every corner of the rural state, the campaigns are bracing for a low-turnout contest that will test the strength of their support and their organizational muscle. The final result will serve as a powerful signal for the rest of the nomination fight to determine who will face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November general election.
After Iowa, the Republican primary shifts to New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina over the coming weeks before moving into the rest of the country this spring. The ultimate nominee wonâ€™t be confirmed until the partyâ€™s national convention in July, but with big wins in the opening contests, Trump will be difficult to stop.
Trumpâ€™s political strength heading into the Iowa caucuses, which come 426 days after he launched his 2024 campaign, tells a remarkable story of a Republican Party unwilling or unable to move on from him. He lost to Biden in 2020 after fueling near-constant chaos while in the White House, culminating with his supporters carrying out a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. In total, he faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases, including two indictments for his efforts to overturn the election and a third indictment for keeping classified documents in his Florida home.
In recent weeks, Trump has increasingly echoed authoritarian leaders and framed his campaign as one of retribution. He has spoken openly about using the power of government to pursue his political enemies. He has repeatedly harnessed rhetoric once used by Adolf Hitler to argue that immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are â€œpoisoning the blood of our country. And he recently shared a word cloud last week to his social media account highlighting words like â€œrevenge,â€ â€œpowerâ€ and â€œdictatorship.â€
Republican voters have been undeterred.
â€œTrump is a Christian. Heâ€™s trustworthy. He believes in America. And he believes in freedom,â€ said 71-year-old Kathy DeAngelo, a retired hospital administrative employee waiting in subzero weather to see Trump on Sunday. â€œHeâ€™s the only one.â€
The final Des Moines Register/NBC News poll before the caucuses found Trump maintaining a formidable lead, supported by nearly half of likely caucusgoers, compared with 20% for Haley and 16% for DeSantis. Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, and DeSantis, the Florida governor, remain locked in a close battle for second. Trump is also viewed more favorably than the other top contenders by likely caucusgoers, at 69% compared with 58% for DeSantis and just 48% for Haley.
On the eve of the caucuses, Trump predicted he would set a modern-day record for an Iowa Republican caucus with a margin-of-victory exceeding the nearly 13 percentage points that Bob Dole earned in 1988. He also sought to downplay expectations that he would earn as much as 50% of the total vote.
Whether he hits that number or not, his critics note that roughly half of the stateâ€™s Republican voters will likely vote for someone not named Trump.
â€œSomebody won by 12 points and that was like a record. Well, we should do that,â€ Trump said Sunday during an appearance at a Des Moines hotel. â€œIf we donâ€™t do that, let â€˜em criticize us, right? But letâ€™s see if we can get to 50%.â€œ
â€œBrave the weather and go out and save America,â€ he later added.
The temperature in parts of Iowa on Monday could dip as low as negative 14 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 26 degrees Celsius) while snow drifts from Fridayâ€™s blizzard still make travel hazardous across the rural state where unpaved roads are common.
Forecasters warned that â€œdangerously cold wind chillsâ€ as low as 45 degrees below zero Fahrenheit were possible through noon Tuesday. The conditions, according to the National Weather Service, could lead to â€œfrost bite and hypothermia in a matter of minutes if not properly dressed for the conditions.â€
Over the weekend, signs positioned on key roadways warned motorists in large flashing orange letters: â€œTRAVEL NOT ADVISED.â€
And the winter weather, intimidating even for Iowa, will make an already unrepresentative process even less representative.
Many elderly Iowans, who are the backbone of the caucus, are wondering how they will make it to their sites. And only a tiny portion of the participants will be voters of color, given Iowaâ€™s overwhelmingly white population, a fact that helped convince Democrats to shift their opening primary contest to South Carolina this year.
Iowaâ€™s caucuses are also playing out on Martin Luther King Day, which is a federal holiday.
Last month, some presidential campaigns were expecting close to 200,000 Republican voters to participate in the caucus. On the eve of the contest, many now wonder whether the 2024 turnout will exceed the 118,411 Republicans who showed up in 2012.
Still, each of the campaigns is claiming a powerful get-out-the-vote operation that will ensure their supporters show up.
Haley rallied a room packed with Iowans and out-of-state volunteers on Sunday in Ames, drawing frequent cheers from the pink necklace and boa-clad â€œWomen for Nikki.â€
The 51-year-old former South Carolina governor repeated her frequent call for GOP voters to elect her as a â€œnew generational leader that leaves the negativity and the baggage behind and focuses on the solutions of the future.â€
Nearly 200 miles away in Dubuque, DeSantis dismissed questions about his position in the polls as he courted voters.
â€œI like being underestimated. I like being the underdog,â€ the Florida governor said. â€œI think that thatâ€™s better.â€
Meanwhile, not all voters were excited about their options.
Jake Hutzell, 28, hasnâ€™t participated in a caucus before, and he isnâ€™t sure that he will Monday, either. He follows politics, but he said heâ€™s part of a generation thatâ€™s skeptical any of it makes a difference.
â€œThereâ€™s never been anyone I feel strongly about,â€ the Dubuque resident said. â€œIf Iâ€™m going to throw my name behind who I think should be the president, I would like to very feel very strongly about it.â€
Are Indonesiaâ€™s Presidential Hopefuls Ganjar and Anies Ganging Up on Prabowo?
Pollsters have put Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto as the strongest contender for Indonesiaâ€™s upcoming election on Feb 14, with an electability of more than 40 per cent.
Indonesian presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto was jointly attacked by his two opponents again in another televised election debate, in a tag-team move that has appeared to lower the defence ministerâ€™s winning chances.
But analysts are split on whether the seemingly uncoordinated offensive by ex-Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo would pay off for them in shaving Prabowoâ€™s lead in time for the Feb 14 presidential election, or if it might even backfire.
In the third of a five-debate series, the candidates were grilled on Sunday night (Jan 7) on the topics of defence, security, international relations and geopolitics.
Itâ€™s familiar territory for Prabowo, 72, who has been Indonesiaâ€™s defence minister for almost five years, though that did not stop his two rivals from criticising his performance at the ministry, such as accusing him of mismanaging defence procurement.
Prabowo was notably upset and said at a press conference after the debate that his rivals were not citing accurate data.
â€œI was a little disappointed with the quality (of the debate), especially the narratives conveyed by the other candidates. In my opinion, first of all, their data is wrong,â€ said a visibly sullen-looking candidate.
“Secondly, (they want to) use the issues of defence to score political points, which, in my opinion, is not permissible for statesmen.â€
Political analyst Ujang Komarudin from the University of Al Azhar Indonesia said Prabowo is being attacked because he is the frontrunner.
â€œThose were hard and continuous attacks because Prabowo is considered a common enemy given his high electability.
“All surveys have put Prabowo on the first spot and far ahead of the electability of Anies and Ganjar. Therefore, to bring down Prabowo, he must be attacked during the debate.â€
On Saturday, pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, for example, released its latest survey. It shows that Prabowoâ€™s electability is 46.9 per cent.
Anies came in second with 23.2 per cent, while Ganjar secured the last spot with 22.2 per cent.
However, a survey by the daily newspaper Kompas after Sundayâ€™s debate showed that 79.7 per cent of its 210 respondents nationwide were satisfied with Ganjar’s performance.
A total of 71.4 per cent were satisfied with Aniesâ€™ performance, while only 48.9 per cent were satisfied with Prabowoâ€™s performance.
NOT THE FIRST ATTACK
During the first debate on Dec 12 which covered areas in law, human rights, eradication of corruption, governance, improving public service, strengthening democracy, tackling disinformation, and managing civic harmony, Anies also focused his criticisms on Prabowo while Ganjar was more reserved.
The second debate was for the vice presidential candidates – Muhaimin Iskandar, who is teaming up with Anies, Gibran Rakabuming Raka who is Prabowoâ€™s running mate and Mahfud MD who is the vice presidential candidate of Ganjar.
The third debate was for the presidential candidates again, and Anies and Ganjar took aim at Prabowoâ€™s military procurement strategy as defence minister.
Anies criticised Prabowo, who is vying for the presidency for the third time in a row, for procuring billions of dollars for weaponry, while many Indonesian military personnel do not own a house.
He even went beyond by highlighting Prabowo’s personal wealth.
â€œWhile half of our soldiers do not have official residences, its minister owns 340,000 ha of land,â€ said Anies, claiming to cite the data President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, used during the 2019 presidential debate when the latter ran against Prabowo.
The defence minister denied Aniesâ€™ claim, but the latter continued his criticism of Prabowo on another front.
During Prabowoâ€™s tenure, the government introduced a programme called food estate, which is coordinated by the defence ministry and aimed to establish large-scale agricultural plantations in several parts of Indonesia to ensure food security nationwide.
Depending on the location of the plantation, the crops were supposed to be rice, cassava and potato.
But Anies claimed the defence ministryâ€™s food estate is a failed project because cassavas can barely grow on the hundreds of hectares of land procured for the scheme.
Meanwhile, Ganjar highlighted the defence ministryâ€™s budget, saying it should account for at least 2 per cent of the gross domestic product.
However, he noted it only accounts for 0.7 per cent, and that Prabowo should have pushed for a bigger budget that included soldiersâ€™ welfare.
â€œYour planning is too reckless, and you are not serious about managing the domestic defence industry,â€ said Ganjar. â€œI am doubtful about how you manage the defence budget in Indonesia.â€
Both Anies and Ganjar also criticised Prabowoâ€™s move in the past few years, where he has bought used military equipment, claiming it was a waste of money.
However, Prabowo said it is not an issue. â€œWhen it comes to military equipment, it is not about whether itâ€™s not new or used. But it is about the age (of the equipment).â€
For example, if it is a plane, it is the flying hours, he said. Prabowo claimed the flying hours of the equipment he procured are still good.
At one point, Anies and Ganjar seemed even to be targeting Prabowo jointly.
When it was Aniesâ€™ turn to ask Ganjar a question, he asked him how he would rate the performance of the defence ministry.
Ganjar gave a five out of 10, which Anies said is too good.
â€œIt is 11 out of 100,â€ said Anies, whose laughter prompted the audience to follow suit.
THE FRONTRUNNER IS THE COMMON ENEMY
Analysts spoke to said the attacks by Anies and Ganjar will continue until the last debate involving the presidential candidates set to take place on Feb 4.
â€œI think this pattern (of attacking other candidates) will continue to be repeated to expose the rivalsâ€™ weaknesses as part of efforts to seek public support, especially swing voters,â€ said Wasisto Rahajo Jati, a political expert with the Indonesian National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).
However, political analyst Ray Rangkuti from the Jakarta-based think tank Lingkar Madani told, that Anies and Ganjar were just taking advantage of the fact that Prabowo is the current defence minister.
â€œBecause Prabowoâ€™s argument so far has always been it is not necessary to talk much (to the public and media). What is important is to work, work, work,â€ said Rangkuti.
â€œBut when the two other candidates asked about his work, he couldnâ€™t explain himself.â€
While there is a pattern that Prabowo is being attacked by the other two, Wasisto from BRIN is doubtful about its effectiveness.
â€œI think it depends on the public perception because, basically, the attack is part of an effort to attract the publicâ€™s attention towards the capabilities and problem-solving abilities of each presidential candidate,â€ he told.
Ujang from the University of Al Azhar Indonesia thinks the attacks on Prabowo have left the debate with no winner.
“Regarding the attacks, no one won the debate because the method was not elegant. An elegant way is a soft way, a good way, a way that is pleasant for people to hear and see,â€ he said, adding that the offensive against Prabowo could even backfire for Anies and Ganjar.
Ujang cited, for example, how Ganjarâ€™s electability according to opinion polls has decreased each time he and his party PDI-P criticise Prabowo.
However, Rangkuti from Lingkar Madani believes Anies and Ganjar should continue attacking Prabowo if they want to win as it would show their stance.
â€œFor Anies, there is no other way because his stance is different (from Prabowoâ€™s). Therefore, he needs to show that. In comparison, Ganjarâ€™s stance is more moderate,â€ he said.
Prabowo is campaigning to continue Jokowiâ€™s programme, while Anies wants a change. On the other hand, Ganjar wants to continue what he believes are good programmes under Jokowi while introducing his own schemes.
Rangkuti believed Prabowo was probably also eager to counter-attack his opponents during the debate but did not have much material to do so since the former governors have never been involved in defence matters.
Citing the Kompas post-debate survey showing how Prabowo was deemed to have fared poorest, Rangkuti also thinks attacking the defence minister would not hurt Anies and Ganjar.
â€œThe election debate can be very influential because, according to surveys, almost 30 per cent of potential voters are still undecided,â€ the analyst added.
Indonesia Presidential Frontrunner Under Fire as Rivals Attack Defence Plans
Indonesian presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto suffered a barrage of attacks in a heated election debate on Sunday, with his two opponents taking aim at his military procurement strategy as defence minister, calling him reckless and wasteful.
Third-time candidate Prabowo, a former special forces commander, has held a strong lead in opinion polls for the Feb. 14 election, but his military modernisation drive drew flak in a second televised face-off focused on security and geopolitics.
Former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan denounced Prabowo’s plans to procure used military equipment, including a fleet of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets from Qatar, and accused his defence ministry of failing to protect itself from hackers who last year threatened to leak confidential information.
“Ironically, defence ministry was hacked,” Anies said. “The 700 trillion rupiah ($45.13 billion) budget cannot be used to contain it. Instead, it is used to buy second-hand military equipment.”
Dressed for the debate in an air force-style bomber jacket, the ruling party’s candidate Ganjar Pranowo said the jets deal, which the government has delayed over budget issues, was “reckless planning”.
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy has for the past decade lagged regional peers in defence spending as a share of gross domestic product.
Prabowo justified the strategy to buy used hardware as essential in modernising the armed forces, adding the 15-year-old jets had a 25 to 30 year lifespan.
“The narrative about using used equipment, I think, is misleading. The important thing is flying hours,” he said.
“In reality we need equipment to cover the current gap,” he said, adding new jets take longer to arrive and not all defence confidential data can be divulged to the public.
President Joko Widodo on Monday was quoted by local media as saying that the data is confidential “because it’s related to the nation’s big strategy,” adding that people were disappointed by the personal attacks launched in the debate.
The president did not mention who launched such attacks.
Most polls have Anies neck-and-neck with Ganjar, though far adrift of leading candidate Prabowo, who has picked as running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the son of the popular two-term President Joko Widodo.
Anies said that choice showed Prabowo had “compromised ethics standards”, after Gibran was only beneficiary of an acrimonious court ruling that changed eligibility rules just days from election registration.
The candidates were also asked how they would address long-running disputes over the South China Sea.
Prabowo said Indonesia needed better technology to defend its territory, while Anies said it should become a dominant leader in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to ensure a common position.
Ganjar proposed a review of the bloc’s much-criticised decision making approach and said a 2002 agreement between China and ASEAN countries to avoid maritime disputes had failed.
“We can take the initiative through temporary agreements to avoid higher risks,” Ganjar said, without elaborating.
Indonesia’s Presidential Hopefuls Face Off in Debate
Indonesia’s presidential candidates held a second debate on Sunday, where they discussed defense, geopolitics, and diplomacy.
Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, and former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan will compete in a Feb. 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 neighbor policy.â€
The former special forces general emphasized 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.
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 modernization, expected to be finalized 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.
Baswedan raised the issue of non-traditional threats such as a rise in hacking incidents, pledging the establishment of a cyberdefense 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,â€ he added.
Subianto is ahead of his rivals in opinion polls since choosing Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the president’s eldest son, as his vicepresidential 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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