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Who fared better in Indonesia's first presidential debate?

Analysts say Jakarta’s governor Joko Widodo fared better than former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto in the first televised presidential debate on Tuesday.

JAKARTA: Indonesia's two presidential candidates on Tuesday went all out to take the offensive in their first televised debate.

And analysts say Jakarta’s governor Joko Widodo fared better than former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto in the two-hour discussion.

It was the first face-off in five TV debates between the two men fighting to be Indonesia's next president - and already the gloves were off.

Mr Jusuf Kalla, who is the running mate for presidential candidate Mr Widodo, struck first at the debate.

He posed a thinly veiled question about Mr Prabowo's past human rights record in which Mr Prabowo seemed to have taken it personally.

"I understand where you're going with it. It's okay. I'm not affected. But I'm here and as a former soldier, I had carried out my duties to the best of my ability. It is up to my superiors to judge me. But you were asking whether I could protect human rights because I was a violator? That was your line of questioning," said Mr Prabowo.

Mr Prabowo's campaign has been dogged by his alleged human rights violations when he was head of the Indonesian Special Forces.

A copy of his supposed dismissal letter from the Army in 1998 has recently been leaked to the public.

The purportedly letter was signed by the military high council that included President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - then a Lieutenant General in the Army.

It found Mr Prabowo guilty of insubordination and ordering the kidnapping of activists.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists went missing during the protests that eventually brought an end to President Suharto's rule.

After his opponent went on the defensive about his past, Mr Widodo chose instead to talk more about the future.

The presidential front-runner wants to keep the focus on what he would do to build a cleaner and a more effective government.

Mr Widodo said: "Develop systems. What kind of systems? I have done it and it has been proven when I was a Mayor and Governor. I believe those systems are needed and can be implemented nationwide."

It seemed the debate has won Mr Widodo more voters. According to many observers, he came out top in the first debate.

There is still enough time for the candidates to make their case. There are still four more debates to go and dozens of speeches to be made during an intense campaign before voters head to the polls on July 9.

And by all calculations, the candidate with a better personality - not programs - would be the choice of most Indonesians.

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