Polls today for local leaders in Indonesia

JAKARTA • Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy, holds elections today to select local leaders with the power to speed up or stall President Joko Widodo's economic reforms in regional areas.

Around 100 million people are eligible to vote for nine provincial governors, 36 city mayors and 224 district heads, according to Mr Andrew Thornley, a programme director at The Asia Foundation in Jakarta.

Under the country's decentralised system of governance, local chiefs will get more than a third of the central government's Budget spending next year and can hand out permits for land use.

Mr Joko is trying to boost economic growth through infrastructure development in less- developed areas after a delayed start to public spending this year, as funds were stuck in regional development banks.

"Some of the slowness in government spending disbursement has been due to election uncertainty, as local officials refrain from pushing through projects over uncertainty about who the bosses would be," said Mr Wellian Wiranto, an economist for OCBC Bank in Singapore.

"New terms in office for the municipal officials should inject more momentum to spending next year."

Voters will pick a leader for Mr Joko's home town of Solo and fast-growing cities such as Surabaya and Medan, as well as provinces on Sumatra and Borneo islands that are key producing areas for coal, rubber, palm oil and cocoa.

The results will be watched for any impact on party dynamics at the national level, where opposition group Golkar is split on whether to join Mr Joko's ruling coalition, said Mr Wiranto.

The results will be announced from tomorrow until Dec 19, with districts first, followed by regions and provinces, the head of the elections commission was cited as saying by Indonesia's Viva website.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'Polls today for local leaders in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe