Indonesia votes: 5 points you need to know

Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko Widodo (R).
Romeo Gacad | AFP | Getty Images
Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko Widodo (R).

Indonesians go to the polls this Wednesday to vote for a new president that will rule Southeast Asia's biggest economy for the next five years.

Here are five things you need to know:

1) An estimated 187 million voters will take part in the July 9 presidential election. Indonesia is not only the world's third biggest democracy; it's also the most populous Muslim nation and the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Analysts say Indonesia will be key in shaping Asia's future, so watch this election closely.

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2) Joko Widodo: He's the Jakarta Governor who goes by the nickname "Jokowi" and until a few weeks ago was the clear front-runner in this presidential race. Jokowi is seen as the more market-friendly candidate and his 'man-of-the-street' charm and corruption-free reputation help explain his popularity with voters.

3) Yet Jokowi faces a tough challenge from main rival Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general who has staged a political comeback and gained ground with an aggressive campaign and nationalistic rhetoric. Prabowo, the former son-in-law of long-ruling dictator Suharto, faces a U.S. visa ban for allegations of past human rights violations. The possibility of his win has unnerved foreign investors.

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4) At stake in this election is the future of Indonesia's economy which grew at its slowest pace in more than four years in the first quarter of 2014. Indonesia has recovered from the turmoil that swept emerging markets last year, but economists say it remains vulnerable to outflows given a current account deficit. They add that more needs to be done to cut costly fuel subsidies and make the economy less vulnerable to cyclical commodity prices.

5) Java – no, we're not talking coffee here but the province that is seen as the key battleground in this election. Java accounts for over 60 percent of Indonesia's voting public and according to media reports, Jokowi is vulnerable in West Java where conservative Muslim parties have strong influence and support Prabowo.