Tara Marchelinm, Jakarta – The Indonesian government has decided to stick to the original schedule for the 2020 regional election despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic, with most people set to go to the polls on Dec. 9 and preliminary stages of the election to be resumed on June 15.
The decision to go ahead with the election this year was made by the Home Affairs Ministry, the General Election Commission (KPU) and the House of Representatives.
"The regional election will be held on Dec. 9 by following strict health protocols. Some preliminary stages could pose risks of coronavirus transmission, so they will be done online," Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian said on Wednesday.
According to the minister, a total of 47 countries around the world are also going ahead with their elections this year despite the pandemic playing havoc with preparations.
"Indonesia will be the last of 47 countries to hold elections in 2020. We can learn from countries that have completed their elections about implementing Covid-19 health protocols," he said.
KPU Chairman Arief Budiman said the country is ready for the regional election in December, though some adjustments have to be made in the preliminary stages and on voting procedures.
Covid-19 health protocols will apply at every stage of the election.
"Candidates can register online. Voters can also update their data online. A candidate can only bring along two staff members to meetings if necessary," he said.
Arief said the KPU plans to limit campaign activities to avoid crowds and order candidates to conduct online campaigning instead.
Election debates, a popular event during election campaigns, will be held in empty auditoriums without supporters.
"The KPU will use CCTV to monitor logistics distribution at polling stations. This time we will also distribute hand sanitizers, disinfectants, masks and personal protective equipment," Arief said.
To allow people to social distance, the KPU plans to add more voting booths, expand the polling station area and limit the number of voters in each station to 400.
This means the number of polling stations will double and the election budget will have to be increased by Rp 535 billion ($36 million), according to Arief.
"We've discussed the plan with regional KPUs. [The problem is] they can't get the additional budget from the regional governments," Arief said.
He said the KPU has not received the full 2020 regional election budget from the government.
Out of the total budget of Rp 10 trillion, Rp 5.8 trillion still has not been transferred to the KPU.
"The budget has already been cut by Rp 297 billion. We can't provide extra financial support for the regional KPUs," Arief said.
Preliminary stages crucial
Ahmad Doli Kurnia, the chairman of Commission II at the House, said December's election must be organized according to Covid-19 health protocols without abandoning democratic principles.
Doli said the commission will help the KPU obtain the additional budget for the election.
The KPU, the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) and the Election Organizers' Ethics Council (DKPP) should submit a proposal for the additional budget so the government can discuss it with the House of Representatives.
Commission member Junimart Girsang said the Home Affairs Ministry and the KPU might have to be more heavy-handed in their approach to handle the election.
"The public so far has shown a reluctance to obey Covid-19 protocols. An election is not going to be easy to manage," he said.
To avoid cheating, Junimart said the Home Affairs Ministry and the KPU have to monitor the preliminary stages very closely and offer assistance to regional areas where internet connection is slow or unstable since almost all the monitoring will have to be done online.
"We have to stop people from misappropriating the government budget. The Home Affairs Ministry has to send teams to every region to make sure candidates don't use the government's social aid to fund their campaign," Junimart said.