Azyumardi Azra, a prominent Muslim scholar and a professor at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN Jakarta), has publicly announced that he would be a nonvoter in the December regional elections.
He said the decision to be a golput -- an Indonesian term meaning abstention -- was taken as a form of "humanitarian solidarity" with thousands of people who had died of COVID-19.
"I'll be a golput in the regional elections on Dec 9 to express my humanitarian solidarity with those who have passed away due to COVID-19," Azyumardi wrote on his Facebook account as reported by kompas.com.
On Dec. 9, 270 regions will hold simultaneous elections, including nine provinces, 224 regencies and 37 municipalities.
Azyumardi said the government seemed to have no empathy for those who had died from the coronavirus by insisting on going ahead with the regional races as scheduled.
"If [the government] still conducts the regional elections on Dec. 9 while it is still failing to control COVID-19 transmission, it will implicitly show [the public] that it has no empathy for the victims of the pandemic. It would also open the door for new COVID-19 clusters," Azyumardi further wrote.
He called on the government to postpone the elections for a year until the pandemic was over or to change the regional elections mechanism to indirect voting.
"The regional leaders could be elected by members of regional legislative councils (DPRD). It is not against the law, since the 1945 Constitution only requires direct elections for president and vice president," he said.
The Indonesian government is currently facing mounting pressure to postpone the December regional elections amid concerns over public health and widespread coronavirus transmission in the country.
Several polls conducted in July revealed that most Indonesians disagree with the government’s decision to hold the 2020 simultaneous regional elections on Dec. 9.
Indonesia's two largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, are among the latest groups to call for the postponement of the races, citing the need to minimize the risk of coronavirus spread.
Last week, the North Sumatra National Movement to Safeguard the Ulema Fatwa (GNPF) filed a lawsuit against the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) demanding the two-state bodies postpone the upcoming regional elections in Medan.
Although the government had put health protocols in place, hundreds of candidates were reported to have violated the policy during the registration phase for the elections from Sept. 4 to 6.
Bawaslu reported 243 violations of health protocols during the registration period, with many candidates taking along crowds and entourages despite calls to reduce mass gatherings amid the pandemic. (nal)