The numbers are staggering.
More than 100 million people are expected to vote, many for the first time. They’ll do so in booths across thousands of islands and three time zones, hammering nails into ballots to mark their choices. And within hours, if history is any guide, the world will know the outcome of the biggest race of the day: the one for Indonesia’s presidency.
Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold its general election on Wednesday. Election Day is a national holiday, and on average, about 75 percent of eligible voters have turned out. In addition to the president, voters are choosing members of Parliament and local representatives.
This election season has raised fears that Indonesia, which was an authoritarian state not long ago, is in danger of sliding back toward its dark past. The potential ramifications extend far beyond the country’s borders. As one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal, nickel and palm oil, Indonesia has a large role to play in the climate change crisis.
And in the contest between the United States and China for influence in Asia, Indonesia is seen by U.S. officials as a “swing state.” Under President Joko Widodo, ties with China have deepened significantly, but he has also maintained strong defense relations with Washington.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is at stake?
The election is widely seen as a referendum on the legacy of Mr. Joko, who is stepping down after two five-year terms.
Often referred to as Jokowi, he remains extremely popular because he has transformed Indonesia into one of Southeast Asia’s biggest economic success stories. He ushered in a universal health care system, built more than 1,000 miles of roads and highways, and oversaw respectable economic growth of about 5 percent a year.
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