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Indonesian Presidential Candidate on Defensive at Debate

Indonesian presidential candidates Joko Widodo, right, Prabowo Subianto, center, and Subianto's running mate Hatta Rajasa greet each other during a televised debate in Jakarta, June 9, 2014
A Suharto-era general running for president of Indonesia has been forced to spend much of this year's first debate defending himself against allegations of rights abuses.

Prabowo Subianto's voice shook at times late Monday as he was pressed on allegations that he led the abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1998 at the end of three decades of hardline rule by former President Suharto.

The charge came from the ticket of Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, known as “Jokowi”, who has a 10-point lead over his opponent in national polls.

In addition to human rights, the candidates also spoke at length about their views on democracy.

Jokowi said democracy for him is about listening to people.

“Every day we come to villages, markets, river banks, farms, places of fish auction because we want to listen to the voice of the people by way of dialogue," he said. "Clean governance can be achieved through two things: system development and proper recruitment pattern.”

Prabowo answered that democracy is simply a means of achieving national goals.

“Democracy, for us, is a means," he said. "Democracy is a stairway to our ideals, that is, the strong and prosperous Indonesia. We want a productive, not destructive, democracy. We want democracy that can bring prosperity to the people of Indonesia. To that end, a clean government that is free from corruption is a prerequisite. Rule of law is a guarantee for the country to provide security for all citizens.”

Many Indonesian media reports declared Jokowi the winner of the debate ahead of next month's poll, which is set for July 9.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.