| JAKARTA, June 9
JAKARTA, June 9 A month before Indonesia's
presidential election, the two candidates traded barbs in their
first televised debate on Monday, with Jakarta Governor Joko
"Jokowi" Widodo seen faring better than former special forces
general Prabowo Subianto.
The two candidates are close in opinion polls ahead of the
July 9 election, although Jokowi holds the edge. Up to 40
percent of the voters are undecided, one survey has said.
The winner will lead the world's fourth-most populous
nation, which has more Muslims than any other country, for the
next five years. Both have promised market-friendly policies to
revive growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy, which fell to
the lowest in four years in the first quarter.
Jokowi appeared to have scored more points in the debate,
but no killer blows, analysts said after the two-hour long
discussion, in which the two candidates were accompanied by
their vice presidential running mates. Prabowo appeared to be on
the defensive about his human rights record, they said.
"I don't think there were any knockout blows," said Paul
Rowland, a Jakarta-based political analyst. "I think Jokowi did
what he needed to do and that was to perform confidently in a
very public venue."
Prabowo, who was formerly married to a daughter of
authoritarian leader Suharto, relies on his strongman and
nationalistic image to appeal to voters weary of what is
perceived to be indecisive leadership under current President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is due to leave office in October.
"We want to be a nation that is independent, that is
productive. We don't want to just be a market for others," said
Prabowo, wearing a white dress shirt and a traditional
Indonesian cap. "We want to stand on our own feet."
Although relatively cordial, the debate turned tense when
Jusuf Kalla, Jokowi's vice presidential candidate, asked Prabowo
to address human rights in Indonesia, which the ex-general took
as a stab at him personally.
"We had to do what was necessary to ensure the safety of the
larger Indonesian society," Prabowo said, raising his voice.
"Mr. Kalla, I am responsible and my conscience is clear. I am
the strongest defender of human rights in this republic. I have
Prabowo was discharged from service by a military council
for misinterpreting orders in the abduction of anti-Suharto
activists, and has been accused of instigating riots that killed
hundreds of people just before Suharto's downfall in 1998.
He denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged.
On Sunday, he visited Suharto's grave and sat beside his
former wife during a ceremony to mark the strongman leader's
93rd birth anniversary.
"Figures like Suharto and (founding president) Sukarno have
left a very long-lasting impression on Indonesia and...Prabowo
is a strong believer in both their ideologies," Suhardi, an
executive of Prabowo's Gerindra party, told Reuters.
"The visit (to Suharto's grave) was in some part a family
matter and...he wants to show people that he keeps figures like
Suharto in mind."
JOKOWI SHRUGS OFF INEXPERIENCE
Jokowi, wearing a dark suit and red tie, looked to stress
his man of the people image and reputation for good governance.
"Democracy for us is listening to the voice of the people
and carrying it out," he said. "That's why every day we go to
villages, markets, riverbanks, farms and fish auctions. Because
we want to listen to the voice of the people."
Jokowi represents a clean break from the elite and often
corrupt old guard that has ruled Indonesia for decades. His
rags-to-riches story and common man approach have made him
popular and he is seen as having a clean, can-do approach that
has catapulted him from small-town mayor to governor of the
capital and presidential favourite within two years.
Neutrals believed he and Kalla carried the day despite
Jokowi's inexperience on the national stage.
"Jokowi and Kalla are more convincing because they answered
questions based on real examples during their time serving in
the government. That shows they can do better if they are
chosen," said Aloysius Andrew, a 21-year-old student at the
University of Indonesia.
Both candidates said they would strengthen the country's
popular anti-graft agency, the Corruption Eradication
Commission, which has exposed high-level corruption and arrested
cabinet ministers, company executives and political leaders
despite limited resources.
"They were both successful in framing themselves in the way
they want to be portrayed in this election," said Tobias Basuki,
a political analyst at think tank CSIS.
"But hands down, Jokowi and Kalla won the debate."
(Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Dennys Kapa,
Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)