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Jakarta Post

Regional races 'can't wait until the pandemic is over': State Palace says amid criticism

  • Tri Indah Oktavianti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, September 22, 2020   /   08:32 am
Regional races 'can't wait until the pandemic is over': State Palace says amid criticism Healthy democracy: A member of a polling station working committee (KPPS) hands over plastic gloves to a voter during a simulation for the 2020 simultaneous regional elections at the General Elections Commission (KPU) complex in Jakarta on July 22, 2020. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

The State Palace has maintained that Indonesia will hold the 2020 regional elections on Dec. 9, amid mounting calls from various parties for the race to be postponed as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of letting up.

Presidential spokesperson Fadjroel Rachman said the elections must be held in order to "guarantee the constitutional rights of the people, the right to vote and to be elected."

“President Joko Widodo has asserted that the regional elections cannot wait until the pandemic is over because no country can predict the end of the pandemic,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“Thus, regional elections must be held under strict health protocols to ensure that they are safe and democratic."

Fadjroel cited some foreign countries, including Singapore, Germany, France and South Korea, as examples of those that had decided to go forward with their elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to hold them successfully.

“Elections during the pandemic are not impossible,” Fadjroel added.

He also ensured that all ministerial and related offices had prepared the regional elections thoroughly with adherence to the health protocols and law enforcement.

His statement came amid calls from prominent figures asking for the government to postpone the regional elections -- set to take place in 270 regions, covering nine provinces, 224 regencies and 37 cities -- due to concerns over public health and coronavirus transmission.

Read also: NU, Muhammadiyah call for postponement of regional elections over COVID-19 concerns

Jusuf Kalla, former vice president and chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross, expressed his disagreement with the Dec. 9 election plan in an opinion piece written in Kompas daily, calling it a "fatal" decision.

“Forcing something that clearly endangers the lives of citizens is not only reckless, but also fatal. All political processes are supposed to be for the good of the people, not to harm them,” Kalla writes in the piece.

He also voiced concerns over the high potential for widespread virus transmission during the election, as candidates would try to gain as many votes as possible through various ways, including gathering crowds.

"Besides, crowds are inevitable on voting day as voters will have to stand in line for their turn,” Kalla argued.

Indonesia’s two largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have also called for the postponement of the 2020 simultaneous regional races, joining numerous election watchdogs, activists and health experts who have cited risks to public health and a possible low voter turnout if the elections were to be held on Dec. 9.

Concerns heightened as the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) reported 243 violations of health protocols during the registration phase for the elections from Sept. 4 to 6, with many candidates taking along crowds and entourages.

Three General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioners, including KPU chairman Arief Budiman, also tested positive for COVID-19 in the middle of election preparations.