Marchio Irfan Gorbiano, Jakarta – The House of Representatives has approved a set of health measures devised by the General Elections Commission (KPU) for holding the Dec. 9 regional elections to protect election organizers and voters from the spread of COVID-19.
House Commission II, which oversees home affairs, green-lighted the proposed health protocol in a hearing with the KPU, the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) and Home Ministry on Monday.
"Commission II and the Home Ministry approved the KPU's election regulation proposal for holding elections of governors and deputy governors, regents and deputy regents, mayors and deputy mayors amid the non-natural disaster," Commission II deputy chairman Saan Mustopa of the NasDem Party said.
He was referring to the pandemic, which began to hit the country in March.
The KPU found itself under pressure to come up with special measures after the House and government decided in late May that this year's regional elections should be held on Dec. 9 to elect 270 regional leaders, comprising nine governors, 224 regents and 37 mayors, even though the epidemic showed no sign of easing. The elections were pushed back by around three months from their initial schedule of Sept. 23, as mandated by a regulation in lieu of law issued by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in May.
Despite their approval on Monday, lawmakers urged the KPU and Bawaslu to carry out their respective duties in accordance with the health protocols and to always communicate with the local task forces so as to protect election officials, voters and candidates from infection.
"It is my hope that KPU and Bawaslu can be very careful in applying their health protocols during the elections," Commission II member and National Mandate Party (PAN) politician Guspardi Gaus said during the hearing.
Critics have urged policymakers to push back the elections to 2021 over fears the outbreak could continue until late into the year. They also warned against low voter turnout.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Johan Budi said election organizers had to ensure both public health and the quality of the electoral process.
The KPU regulation, along with a similar regulation introduced by Bawaslu as an election monitoring body, state that health rules, for instance, the use of face masks and physical distancing, are mandatory for KPU officers, candidates and voters during all stages of an election, from the ongoing preparation to the final vote count a week after voting day.
It also limits the number of participants of indoor election campaign events to 40 percent of the venue's capacity. Campaign activities that involve massive crowds, such as music concerts, are banned.
COVID-19 patients will be allowed to cast their vote after 12 p.m., an hour before voting booths close, at designated polling stations at nearby hospitals.
KPU chairman Arief Budiman said they had drafted the regulation after consulting with the COVID-19 national task force, adding that the KPU was committed to applying strict health protocol without hampering the elections.
"I think all are in agreement that it is important to implement health protocols during the Dec. 9 elections without reducing the democratic quality [of the elections]. That is our spirit," he said.