Thursday, July 10, 2014

Q&A: Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch on the Presidential Election and the Media

By Benjamin Soloway & Dessy Sagita
The Jakarta Globe

We sat down with Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch on Wednesday evening to discuss the events of election day. He has been with Human Rights Watch in Indonesia since 2008.

Do you think that Allan’s Nairn’s newly published material has scared Prabowo Subianto and his team?

I don’t know if it’s scared them, but he’s made an impact.

To what extent do you think that Nairn has caused people to rethink their decision to vote for one candidate in particular?

I don’t know. There is no survey.

Where does President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono fit into all this. He will leave office in October. Do you think he will still have enough influence to stop problems that come up?

SBY is not seen as a neutral person anymore because his party has supported Prabowo. But because he’s still president, he should call on people to stay cool. He should tell the public that they have to trust credible pollsters. SBY is a politician who believes in scientific methodology in making his decisions based on polling.

Tempo has been reporting for the past few days that SBY is endorsing Prabowo; he wants Prabowo to win. But at the same time he wants to leave a legacy: a peaceful election. And he has not endorsed Prabowo to the same degree that his party has. He didn’t make any official statement. How do you see this?

It’s good politics. He’s keeping the door open. His party is obviously endorsing Prabowo. They cannot do that without his agreement. But at the same time he is creating distance between himself and the endorsement — mixed messages. To some extent, it’s also confusing. This is SBY: he’s not decisive.

Prabowo lambasted several media outlets today [Wednesday], including reportedly the Jakarta Globe. Does that kind of rhetoric indicate the possibility of chaos to come?

He’s a politician. The one who lambasts the media should be the Press Council or a media critic or a journalists’ union or a media-monitoring NGO. People will listen to that criticism. It does not help Prabowo at all to criticize the media, especially asking some media outlets to leave the room. It’s going to backfire.

What’s your view of the PDI-P [Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle] and Megawati’s decision to call the win so early in the day? It seems that maybe they were trying to preempt something?

I do not know how that decision was made. Megawati is someone who usually listens to perspectives from her advisers before she decides on something. I don’t know why she announced it by herself.

Why do you think Prabowo decided to declare his own victory?

I think this is something that journalists should try to figure out. Different polls will name different winners over the next few weeks.

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

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