Jakarta – The General Elections Commission (KPU) has announced that three candidates running for the upcoming simultaneous regional elections in December have died of COVID-19.
KPU commissioner Evi Novilda Ginting Manik said the first candidate who died was Muharram, the incumbent regent of Berau regency in East Kalimantan.
"Muharram passed away on Sept. 22, a day prior to the announcement of eligible candidates [in the regency]," Evi said on Sunday as reported by kompas.com.
The second candidate to succumb to COVID-19 was Adi Darma, who was running in the mayoral race in Bontang, also in East Kalimantan.
Adi died on Thursday after being treated at Taman Husada Regional General Hospital (RSUD), Bontang.
Meanwhile, Ibnu Saleh, the incumbent regent of Central Bangka, Bangka Belitung Islands, died from COVID-19 on Sunday. Ibnu was running for reelection in the upcoming regional elections prior to his death.
Ibnu's wife and son and their domestic worker also tested positive for COVID-19. They are currently being treated at Ir. Soekarno Regional General Hospital in Bangka Belitung.
Evi said that KPU regulations allowed parties to replace candidates who died prior to the elections.
The government remains insistent on carrying out the regional elections as scheduled despite public outcry.
The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and prominent Muslim groups Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah had urged the government to delay the elections to protect the people from COVID-19.
According to the official government count, Indonesia had recorded 307,120 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 11,253 fatalities as of Monday.
LIPI political research center head Firman Noor said that at least 63 candidate pairs had also been exposed to COVID-19, showing the election had the potential to create new clusters.
During the first week of campaigning for the 2020 simultaneous regional elections, the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) announced that an undisclosed number of candidates in 53 regencies and cities had hosted campaign events either without physical-distancing and mask-wearing restrictions or with more than 50 people in attendance from Sept. 26 to Sept. 30.
Previously, Bawaslu announced that 243 prospective candidates had violated health protocols by bringing large entourages to register their candidacies at regional KPU offices from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6. (nal)