Local elections to proceed as scheduled amid strict health protocols

Jakarta (ANTARA) - The 2020 simultaneous Regional Head Elections (Pilkada) will be held on December 9 to safeguard the people's constitutional rights to vote and be elected, albeit by applying strict health protocols, Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman confirmed.

"Pilkada must be organized with strict health protocols and discipline supported by law enforcement and firm sanctions, so that a new cluster owing to pilkada does not arise," Rachmad noted in a press release here on Monday.

The spokesman quoted President Joko Widodo as saying that one cannot wait for the pandemic to end in order to hold the regional head elections since no one knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will end.

"Hence, Pilkada must be implemented with the application of strict health protocols to ensure safety and that democracy is upheld," he affirmed.

Rachmad believes it is not an impossible task to organize elections during a pandemic, as other countries, such as Singapore, Germany, France, and South Korea, also held general elections during a pandemic, with the application of strict health protocols.

The government has urged all parties to work in unison to thwart the likelihood of new COVID-19 clusters arising at every stage of the elections.

"This simultaneous Pilkada should offer a momentum for the emergence of new ways and innovations for the community and with state officials to rise together and make Pilkada an arena for brainstorming, contesting actions, and efforts to reduce and break the chain of COVID-19," he emphasized.

In addition, Fadjroel noted that this simultaneous regional elections also demonstrated to the international community that Indonesia is a constitutional democracy and maintains the sustainability of a democratic government system in accordance with the Pancasila ideology and the 1945 Constitution.

In the meantime, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the Regional Representative Council (DPD) have expressed their views that the government should postpone the implementation of the upcoming Pilkada owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"(We) request the General Election Commission of the Republic of Indonesia, Government, and House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia to postpone implementation of the 2020 simultaneous Pilkada until the health emergency stage is over," Chairman of PBNU Said Aqil Siroj noted in a statement here on Sunday. Despite applying strict health protocols, it would be very difficult to avoid crowds during implementation of the local elections, NU, the country's largest Muslim organization, stated.

NU also called to reallocate the regional election budget for handling the health crisis and strengthening social safety nets.

Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy after the US and India, is once again gearing up to hold simultaneous regional head elections (Pilkada) in 270 regions, or nearly half of its territories, on December 9 this year.

As many as 734 nominee pairs have registered as candidate pairs for the 2020 Pilkada, which will be held simultaneously in nine provinces, 224 districts, and 37 cities.

Despite strict implementation of the health protocols during the Pilkada preparation process, several central and local KPU officers have contracted the novel coronavirus disease.

KPU Chairman Arif Budiman announced on September 18 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would work from home.

Earlier, commissioner of the central KPU, Evi Novida Ginting Manik, also contracted COVID-19 in Jakarta.

In addition, at least 63 prospective candidates for Pilkada contracted COVID-19, and the figure is likely to increase.

In Boyolali, Central Java, 96 officers of the local office of the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) were infected with COVID-19.

In Riau, the local KPU chairman, Ilham Muhammad Nasir, tested positive for COVID-19, so other commissioners of the provincial KPU also underwent testing for the virus.

Source: Antara News

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