The Jakarta Post
Most Indonesians disagree with the government’s decision to hold the 2020 simultaneous regional elections on Dec. 9, as uncertainty remains over when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, two recent surveys have found.
Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia interviewed 1,200 respondents across Indonesia from July 13 to 16 on whether the elections should take place during the outbreak.
It found that 63.1 percent of respondents preferred the year-end polls be postponed, while 34.3 percent said the elections should occur as scheduled. The remaining 2.6 percent of respondents did not provide answers.
“Looking at these numbers, I think it will be a tough job for the government and the General Elections Commission [KPU] to garner public enthusiasm for the elections and improve public participation,” Indikator executive director Burhanudin Muhtadi said last week when announcing the results of the survey.
Another pollster, Charta Politika Indonesia, released last Wednesday the results of a similar public opinion survey involving 2,000 respondents from July 6 to 12 to see whether they agreed with the government’s decision to hold the elections despite the pandemic showing no signs of abating.
It found that 54.2 percent of respondents disagreed with the decision and only 31.8 percent of respondents agreed with it. Yet, half of those supporting the government’s decision also said they were unsure about whether they would show up at polling stations and cast their ballots.
“Our survey results indicate that the government and the KPU will have a difficult job increasing public participation in the coming elections. Otherwise, we will see a low turnout,” Charta Politika executive director Yunarto Wijaya said.
The two surveys appeared to reflect concerns about low voter turnout from experts and activists, who have repeatedly called on policymakers to push back the elections to 2021 over fears the COVID-19 outbreak could continue late into the year. They argued that the elections, which seek to elect 270 regional leaders comprising nine governors, 224 regents and 37 mayors, would put voters and election organizers at risk of contracting the disease.
But the government has insisted on holding the December elections, with Home Minister Tito Karnavian saying that democracy should go on despite the outbreak.
As a result, the KPU has to grapple with arranging health protocols and procuring personal protective equipment to prevent election organizers, candidates and voters from contracting the disease during all stages of elections, from the preparations, which started in June, to the final vote count a week after voting day.
Fadli Ramadanil of election watchdog Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) said the surveys indicated that prospective voters were unlikely to prioritize the elections as long as the pandemic still raged on.
Political analyst Adi Prayitno from State Islamic University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta said low public interest in elections might encourage candidates to turn to vote buying by offering money or daily supplies to potential voters, particularly those suffering from financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.
Adi said the government could press ahead with hosting the Dec. 9 elections only in COVID-19 low-risk regions, or "green zones”, to ensure high turnout.
KPU commissioner Ilham Saputra said the commission would not ask the government or the House of Representatives for election postponement because the KPU had already begun preparing the elections. He said the commission finished screening independent candidates on July 12, and was now updating the voter roll – scheduled to be completed on Aug. 13.
“Postponing the elections is not in our plan so far, but we will try to resolve what people described as a lack of public enthusiasm for year-end polls,” Ilham said.
“For social media platforms, we will prepare a tutorial video about voting mechanisms. This is to convince people that it will be safe to show up at polling stations.”