A local election tests Indonesia’s ruling coalition

Mar 22, 2018

SUDIRMAN SAID is smiling and shaking hands with shopkeepers selling everything from meat carcasses to herbal tonics. The crowded market in Semarang, the capital of Central Java, is not the sort of place one would expect to encounter a smartly dressed 54-year-old accountant. But as the opposition’s candidate to be governor of the province, Mr Sudirman must campaign in every corner to stand even a slim chance of victory. Few others were brave enough to seek the nomination. “They didn’t want to be losers,” Mr Sudirman chuckles. “Am I willing to be a loser?”

Millions of Indonesians will go to the polls on June 27th to choose governors, mayors and other officials. All three of the country’s most populous provinces—West, East and Central Java—face elections. The island of Java accounts for less than a tenth of Indonesia’s territory but almost half of its 190m-plus voters (the overall population is 266m, making Indonesia the world’s fourth-most-populous country). Moreover, Java played a pivotal part in the most recent presidential election, in...

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