Jayanty Nada Shofa – Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urged regional leader candidates to abide by health protocols after receiving countless reports on non-compliance.
According to the president, the country can only escape from pandemic-induced risks if they have successfully dealt with the health problem. Meanwhile, it is impossible to hold back the election as it is still unknown when the Covid-19 pandemic will end.
"This is why implementing health protocols in the regional election is a must. There is no bargaining," Jokowi told a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
Jokowi, whose son Gibran Rakabuming Raka is a candidate for the Solo mayoral race, said he had been keeping a close watch on the protocol violations by the candidates. A concert held by a candidate pair in Pohuwato, Gorontalo, which attracted thousands, had caught Jokowi's attention.
The president later instructed the General Election Commission (KPU), Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) with the help of the Indonesian military (TNI) and police (Polri) to ensure that all health protocols are met.
He also ordered all bureaucratic apparatuses and TNI-Polri to maintain their neutrality.
Other things that should also be looked out for is the use of identity politics or race, religion, ethnicity (SARA) politics in the election. Such practices can potentially harm national unity and integrity, Jokowi said.
Organizing bodies must also ensure that all election processes are neutral, professional, and transparent.
"The regional election plays a major role in maintaining democracy as well as the regional political stability," Jokowi said.
Additionally, the president called on religious leaders, public figures as well as academics to support these efforts.
Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian pointed out there were two possible reasons that had caused this non-compliance.
First, the candidates and the associated political parties had already been informed of the changes in KPU regulations (PKPU) regarding the necessary protocols. However, they still insisted on a show of force.
Tito said it was also possible that there were candidates unaware of health measures.
The changes in PKPU had only been promulgated by the Law and Human Rights Ministry on Sep. 1 whereas the registration took place on Sep. 4. This left them only a few days to communicate the protocols to the candidates, he added.
The minister had reprimanded the 53 incumbent candidates who were caught gathering crowds to inflict a deterrent effect.
"The Home Affairs Ministry, however, lacks access to impose sanction to the contestants who are not state civil apparatus. But, Bawaslu has already warned them," Tito said in a virtual conference on Tuesday.
A video of a declaration concert in Pohuwato, Gorontalo, had surfaced online on Twitter since Sunday.
The concert was reportedly held by Pohuwato regent-deputy candidate pair, Saiful A Mbuinga-Suharsi Igrisa, at GOR Panua, Pohuwato on Thursday.
Attendees were seen flouting health protocols by not wearing a mask nor keeping a safe distance between one another. Crowds and the singer on stage were loudly cheering to the candidate pair's acronym SMS.
The candidate pair was backed by the United Development Party (PPP) and the Great Indonesian Movement Party (Gerindra).
PPP had apologized for the incident as the news had gone viral.
The political party had urged all of its candidates to comply with the health protocols throughout the campaign. However, it is sometimes difficult to control the supporters' enthusiasm, deputy secretary-general Achmad Baidowi was quoted as saying by local online media Detik on Monday.