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Regional elections to be held as scheduled despite COVID-19 pandemic: Govt

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2020

Ghina Ghaliya, Jakarta – The government has decided to stick to the 2020 regional election schedule despite the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The decision was made during a meeting on Wednesday between the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, the home minister, the National Police chief, the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander, the General Elections Commission (KPU), the Elections Supervisory Body (Bawaslu) and the Election Organization Ethics Council (DKPP).

"The KPU assured us there would be no changes to the schedule for the 2020 regional elections. They will be held in September this year as was the original plan," Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD told the press on Wednesday.

He added that the KPU had set up scenarios and work patterns according to the protocol for dealing with COVID-19 issued by the government. The new scenario is expected to run until May 31, although the government declared a state of emergency from Feb. 29 to May 29.

"There is no problem. Everything will proceed as usual until May 31," said Mahfud.

The new scenario includes some changes to the election process. For example, the inauguration of voting committees (PPS) will be handled by subdistrict offices rather than the district or mayor's office. The measure is intended to avoid large gatherings.

The verification process for independent candidates will also follow the COVID-19 protocol, which includes body temperature scanning, as their supporters are expected to attend the process.

Bawaslu previously advised the KPU to prepare for delays to the 2020 regional elections in areas with confirmed COVID-19 cases through "vote postponements" and "restaged voting" in those areas.

Lawmakers and election watchdogs also called on the KPU to identify areas affected by the disease and come up with alternatives ways to hold the elections.

The terms pemilihan lanjutan (vote postponement) and pemilihan susulan (restaged vote) are stipulated in Law No. 10/2016 on regional elections.

A vote postponement allows an election to be rescheduled to a later date after election organizers agree to halt it due to force majeure. A restaged vote, meanwhile, involves conducting the entire election again, also for reasons of force majeure.

Bawaslu has identified several COVID-19 red zones, namely Bekasi, Depok, Cirebon and Purwakarta in West Java; Tangerang and South Tangerang in Banten; Surakarta in Central Java; Pontianak in West Kalimantan; Manado in North Sulawesi; Bali; and Yogyakarta.

As of midday Thursday, Indonesia had 227 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including in regions set to hold regional elections in September, such as Surakarta and Semarang in Central Java and Denpasar in Bali. At least 19 people have died from the disease, while 11 have recovered.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/03/19/regional-elections-to-be-held-as-scheduled-despite-covid-19-pandemic-govt.html