Key things to know about Indonesia's regional elections on Wednesday

Supporters wearing T-shirts in support of Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat during their final campaign rally in Jakarta, on Feb 11, 2017.
Supporters wearing T-shirts in support of Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat during their final campaign rally in Jakarta, on Feb 11, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

Indonesians will head to the polls on Wednesday (Feb 15) for the country's second simultaneous election since independence in 1945. Before the first such election on Dec 9, 2015, Indonesia had never held elections with so many areas being contested at the same time. The decision to hold these elections on the same day is aimed at cutting costs and improving efficiency. The third and final simultaneous election will be held next year.

Who are Indonesians electing? 

They are electing governors of seven provinces, mayors and regents for 18 cities, as well as local leaders in 76 districts.

There are a total of 41 million eligible voters and 337 pairs of candidates for the Feb 15 polls.

Which is the most important election?

The governor election in Jakarta where 7.1 million voters will decide who governs the Indonesian capital for the next five years.

Why is the Jakarta election important?

Jakarta is not just the administrative capital of Indonesia, but it is also where the heart and soul of Indonesian politics is.

Observers have said the Jakarta polls may have a bearing on the 2019 presidential race, mainly because the city’s last elected governor, Mr Joko Widodo, is now Indonesia’s seventh president.

This particular election has also been referred to as a proxy for the next presidential polls because the incumbents, who are backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), are facing off with rivals who are supported by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Mr Prabowo Subianto, a former presidential candidate and Gerindra Party patron. 

Dr Yudhoyono has had a tenuous relationship with his successor Mr Joko, while Mr Prabowo has hinted strongly that he will be making a second bid for the presidency against Mr Joko, whom he lost to in 2014.

There is also the ongoing blasphemy trial against Chinese Christian Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who has faced increasing opposition not just from his political opponents but also from hardline Muslims who do not want a non-Muslim to lead the capital.

Who are the candidates in Jakarta?

The incumbents
Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok)
and Mr Djarot Saiful Hidayat

Mr Basuki, 50, inherited the post of Jakarta governor in 2014, after Mr Joko was elected president. Mr Djarot, 54, his running mate, was a backbencher for the ruling PDI-P before he was appointed deputy governor. They are contesting under the PDI-P ticket, although Mr Basuki had initially planned to run as an independent.

The Challengers 
Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono
and Ms Sylviana Murni

Mr Agus, 38, was an army major when he announced on nomination day that he would contest. The son of Dr Yudhoyno soon found that his political pedigree was both a boon and bane. Many questioned his youth and inexperience, but those were gaps which Ms Sylviana, a 58-year-old City Hall veteran, was picked to plug by Dr Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party.

Mr Anies Baswedan 
and Mr Sandiaga Uno

Mr Sandiaga, a 47-year-old business tycoon, was the first to throw his hat into the ring to challenge Mr Basuki. But in an unexpected twist, Mr Prabowo decided that former education minister Anies, also 47, would run as governor, with Mr Sandiaga as his number two instead.

It came as a surprise because Mr Anies, while campaigning for Mr Joko's presidential bid against Mr Prabowo in 2014, had been strongly critical of the former army general, once even saying that he was endorsed by the local "Mafioso".

What time do polls open and close, and when will the results be out?

Polls open at 7am local time on Wednesday (8am Singapore time) and close at 1pm local time (2pm Singapore time). Official results will only be announced sometime in March.