Indonesia's election commission has announced the candidates deemed fit to run in the Dec 9 simultaneous provincial, regency and mayoral elections to be held in nine provinces and 266 regencies and cities across the country.
The polls will give President Joko Widodo a chance to gather support from the regions for his ambitious national development plans, which cannot proceed smoothly without the local leaders' cooperation.
Mr Joko plans to spend about 300 trillion rupiah (S$30 billion) next year to build roads, power plants, irrigation systems and other infrastructure to boost economic growth that earlier this year slowed to below 5 per cent, the lowest in more than five years.
CHANCE TO BEEF UP
The ruling party must take advantage of the Dec 9 simultaneous elections and win as many regions as possible to help strengthen the effectiveness of the national administration.
POLITICAL ANALYST MURADI, who teaches at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java
Mr Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) currently controls less than 30 per cent of these posts but is expected to expand its control in the regional elections that will be held in December this year, as well as in 2017 and 2018.
This is because the political party of the incumbent national leader has had an advantage in winning regional elections, according to political analysts like Dr Muradi, who teaches at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java.
There are altogether 34 provinces and 514 regencies and cities in Indonesia, with each province helmed by a governor, a regency by a regent and a city by a mayor.
The December polls, the largest of three simultaneous regional elections, will involve 20 candidates running for governor in nine provinces as well as 644 candidates for regent and 101 for mayor in a total of 266 regencies and cities, the national election commission announced late on Monday.
The other two regional polls will be in 2017 and 2018.
Mr Joko, who took office in October last year, has been facing reluctance from local leaders, particularly those not from his party, to support his national programme.
The key reason is that these leaders think they are not obliged to take instructions from the President and are, instead, answerable to their own constituents. This is particularly so as under the Indonesian political system, the President cannot fire these local leaders should they breach the law; only their respective regional Parliaments can impeach them.
"The ruling party must take advantage of the Dec 9 simultaneous elections and win as many regions as possible to help strengthen the effectiveness of the national administration," Dr Muradi said.
Under the current situation, there are instances where the local governments are acting contrary to the policies of the national government. For example, some regions are collecting excessive local taxes at a time when the national government is trying to lure foreign investors with promises of attractive taxes and less red tape.
PDI-P could win about half of the posts up for grabs and achieve a good consolidation, Dr Muradi said. He added, by way of explanation, that when Mr Joko's predecessor, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in power, his Democratic Party significantly raised its influence and even won the polls in East Java province, the traditional stronghold of the National Awakening Party.
Voters tend to want their area to be led by a person affiliated with the national leader, the President, hoping they will get privileges.
The Dec 9 elections would cost 5.5 trillion rupiah and involve more than two million election commission officials nationwide that would cater to 102 million voters, Mr Husni Kamil Manik, head of the national election commission, said on Monday. "This is our first simultaneous regional elections that will be held across the country," he said.
Before now, such elections were held almost every week as terms of office expired. But the country is working towards a single date for regional elections, with the transition towards that being the three elections to be held simultaneously.