Indonesia presidential hopeful Joko Widodo, favored by Christians, sheds some poll support

(Photo: REUTERS / Beawiharta)Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (C) talks to his supporters during a campaign rally in Jakarta June 26, 2014. Jokowi, 53, is from central Java, a populous province on Indonesia's central island that is known for the hierarchical Javanese culture which prizes a reserved, respectful manner. Jokowi also has a filmstar following in Indonesia. Born in poverty, he has stormed his way to the top rungs of leadership with a clean image and a reputation for competence in local government, a reversal of the autocracy, corruption and power politics that have weighed down the country for decades. Picture taken June 26, 2014

Indonesians go to the polls  in July to select a new president in the nation with the world's biggest Muslim population. And the minority Christians seem to be favoring Joko Widodo as their choice candidate.

Widodo had been leading pre-election polls among voters, but his support has trimmed in the world's third largest democracy, new surveys suggest.

Rev. Benny Suseyto, secretary of the interreligious dialogue commission of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Indonesia, said he believes Joko Widodo can foster harmonious relations between the Christian minority and the Islamic majority in the world's biggest archipelago.

"Jokowi [as he is popularly known], is a leader who has put on his agenda the issues of human rights and freedoms, the rights of minorities, the fight against religious intolerance," Suseyto told Fides, a Catholic news agency.

"In addition to the urgent issue of the fight against corruption, he is a candidate who desires to lead a democratic and pluralistic Indonesia.

"He talks about peace, harmony, justice and the common good: he is well thought of by Christians."

Three months ago, Joko Widodo was the clear front-runner in the race with a 25-point edge over his main rival in election polls.

Then rumors that the 53-year-old governor of Indonesia's capital city was ethnic Chinese and a Christian, not a Muslim seemed to dent his popularity, The Wall Street Journal online reported Sunday.

He produced documentary evidence refuting the claims, but his 62-year-old rival Prabowo Subianto, a former army general who served in the authoritarian Suharto regime, is only a few points behind him.

Joko leads the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P) and is an engineering graduate,

While praising Joko, Suseyto noted, "Prabowo Subianto has recently found the support of Islamic parties and also of radical Islamic groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front, promoter of hatred and violence in society.

"This has caused disappointment in the areas of civil society that pay more attention to human rights."

With 251 million people making it the fourth most populous country, the Southeast Asian nation has a sizable Christian population. It is 86 percent Muslim, 9 percent Christian (6 percent Protestant, 3 percent Catholic), and 2 percent Hindu.

Indonesians are voting for a successor to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term after serving 10 years.

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