JAKARTA — Indonesia’s presidential candidates debated some of the most pressing issues facing the world’s third-largest democracy: dilapidated infrastructure, struggling farmers, forest fires — and unicorns.
When President Joko Widodo, who is seeking a second term, asked challenger Prabowo Subianto about his policies for supporting Indonesian unicorns a look of bafflement passed across the former general’s face.
Wondering aloud, he replied: “What are unicorns? You mean those online things?” Widodo sagely nodded in the affirmative before Subianto explained he supports online businesses.
Subianto was probably not alone in his ignorance, but social media in Indonesia gleefully seized on Sunday night’s exchange as proof of his lack of qualification to be president.
In the tech world, a unicorn is a start-up company valued at USD$1 billion. Indonesia has several of them, and they are transforming areas of the national economy such as transport and shopping.
Twitter and Facebook were awash with unicorn memes after the debate.
In one, juxtaposed photos of Widodo and Subianto with thought bubbles above their heads showed Widodo projecting tech start-up logos and Subianto imagining the magical horned horse creature.
Sunday night’s debate was the second of five televised face-offs between the opposing campaigns before April’s election.
Opinion polls show Widodo about 20 percentage points ahead of Subianto. The former general, who is campaigning on a Trump-style Indonesia First platform, narrowly lost to Widodo in the 2014 election.
After the debate started, smoke and the sound of an explosion caused panic near the venue in central Jakarta. City police are investigating and said it was probably firecrackers. No one was injured.
— Unicorn Indonesia (@menapak_id) February 18, 2019