Jakarta – The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and prominent Muslim groups have urged the government to delay simultaneous regional elections scheduled for December over COVID-19 concerns.
LIPI political research center head Firman Noor said the decision to go ahead with the elections during a public health crisis showed the government's imprudence.
"This is not a wise attitude of a democratic government formed based on the will of the people," Firman said on Thursday.
Holding regional elections in the middle of a pandemic would lead to humanitarian violations as a result of neglect of human safety, he argued.
Citing data from the national COVID-19 task force, Firman said the number of COVID-19 cases in September was almost four times the average figure in July and August.
"And this figure basically does not reflect the real condition because of a relatively small number of rapid and swab tests," he said, adding that the situation was worsened by poor public adherence to health protocols.
The 2020 Regional Elections Vulnerability Index issued by the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) shows that 50 districts and cities set to hold elections in December are in the highly vulnerable category, so are nine provinces, Firman said.
Meanwhile, 126 districts and cities are in the medium-prone category and 85 districts and cities in the low-prone category.
At least 63 candidate pairs have also been exposed to COVID-19, showing the election had the potential to create new clusters, Firman said.
"On the one hand, the government has restricted community activities," he said as quoted by kompas.com. "On the other hand, it provides an opportunity for mass [gatherings] during the process of regional elections, from pre-campaigning and the campaign season to voting day."
The argument that regional elections must go ahead to avoid a leadership vacuum was unfounded because local administrations can still be led by acting heads, he said.
"The nuances of political participation of this kind will substantially reduce the essence of regional elections as a manifestation of channeling the interests of the people."
Even if the government proceeds with the elections this year, many voters would be hesitant to go out to the polls, he added.
Indonesia's two largest Islamic organizations, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have voiced similar concerns over the issue.
"We request that the General Elections Commission[(KPU], the government and the House of Representatives postpone the 2020 regional elections until [Indonesia] passes the health emergency," NU Executive Board (PBNU) chairman Said Aqil Siradj said recently.
In a press conference held on Sept. 2, Muhammadiyah general secretary Abdul Mu'ti said: "We recommend that [the government] carefully consider postponing the elections."
The government and House Commission II overseeing home affairs have decided to go ahead with the elections on Dec. 9, though the House has asked the KPU to revise KPU Regulation No. 10/2020 on the 2020 regional elections to specifically include provisions prohibiting mass gatherings and to promote online campaigns instead. (syk)