General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Husni Kamil Manik has said that raging forest fires and the ensuing smoky haze engulfing much of Sumatra and Kalimantan has not yet affected the conduct of the upcoming simultaneous regional elections.
Husni said he had yet to receive word from his fellow election organizers about any disruptions from the haze in the regions most affected by it, with the elections currently in the campaign phase leading up to balloting on Dec. 9.
'Up until this moment, I haven't received any information from [election organizers in] the regions pertaining to such worries,' Husni told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a seminar in Jakarta, on Wednesday.
According to the 2015 Regional Elections Law, election organizers have the authority to decide whether balloting will proceed or be postponed in cases of force majeure, such as natural disasters or rioting.
'The authority to postpone lies with the election organizers. All other matters, like the danger posed by the haze, you'll have to ask the government,' he added.
Husni said he was optimistic that the conduct of the elections would remain unobstructed by the haze, denying that the Home Ministry had indicated there was possibility of postponement.
Also on Wednesday, Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) head Muhammad said that a meeting with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut B. Panjaitan earlier in the day had concluded that the government was still optimistic about controlling the pollution.
'That's the point Luhut said this morning, meaning that the KPU and Bawaslu will proceed as planned,' Muhammad said on the sidelines of the seminar.
He said that was the reason President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo cut his US visit short. 'Luhut also said that the President had done so to make sure that the haze wouldn't get in the way of elections,' he explained.
Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo previously said that the upcoming regional elections may have to be postponed if the haze persisted until balloting day. He made it clear that in that case the elections would take place soon afterwards and would not wait until the next round of local elections in 2017.
Data from the People's Voter Education Network (JPRR) show that 48 regencies and cities may not be able to conduct the elections on time as a result of the smoke, including 14 in Central Kalimantan, seven in South Sumatra, nine in Riau, seven in West Kalimantan and 11 in Jambi.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Fandi Utomo told the Post that the law required the government to declare the haze crisis a national emergency before election organizers could weigh in on the decision to postpone the balloting.
'If the government declares that it isn't a national emergency, then the local elections cannot be postponed and yet we have to also see whether the ongoing [campaigning] can be carried out in the current situation,' Fandi said on Wednesday.
Fandi, who is a member of the House of Representatives' Commission II overseeing governance and regional autonomy, has asked the public to wait until legislators are able to determine the effect of the pollution haze on the different stages of the elections.
'We'll have to wait for the evaluation results; several colleagues from House Commission II are visiting Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan, where it is worst, to review the conditions in the field,' he added.
He said the commission would provide a full evaluation regarding whether the haze negatively impacted the campaigning season on the ground, pending discussions in the next House sitting period starting in mid-November.