Indonesian President Requested to Delay Regional Polls over Surging Coronavirus Cases

Indonesian religious groups and experts, including a former vice president, are requesting authorities to postpone regional elections set for December, as coronavirus infection is surging rapidly in the world’s fourth most populous country.

December Elections could be dangerous!

The December 9 elections held for hundreds of key local leadership posts are a huge logistical undertaking in a peninsula of more than 260 million people. The elections have already been delayed once because of the growing virus fears.

On Monday, Jusuf Kalla, the Former Vice President who is now the head of Indonesia’s Red Cross, said in a newspaper commentary that December elections could be dangerous.

“Forcing something that clearly, rationally endangers the people isn’t only reckless, but fatal. Every political process, the noblest goal is for the public’s benefits. Not harm,” he said.

Indonesia has registered about 245,000 coronavirus infections and 9,553 fatalities. This is Asia’s highest death toll outside of India. The testing rates of the country are among the world’s lowest. This is why epidemiologists are stressed that elections, for which there are 107 million eligible voters, will further fuel the contagion.

Those infected consist of government and election commission officials and three cabinet ministers.

Establishing Strict Protocols

Indonesia’s largest religious groups, the Nadhlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah, also requested authorities to delay the poll because of increasing cases.

A source at the election commission, or KPU, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to media, said to a reporter that senior commission officials were against a December ballot.

Asked to confirm that, a KPU spokesman said two other options to delay the elections to next year were suggested; however, the government opted for December.

Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rahman stated that the ballot must go ahead as planned; however, with strict health protocols.

“President Joko Widodo reiterated that the elections cannot wait until the pandemic is over, because no countries know when COVID-19 is over,” he said in a statement.

KPU protocols consist of limiting audience sizes at campaign events and needing negative tests when candidates register.