IO – The public keeps its spotlight beamed on the upcoming Regional Elections amid a pandemic. Other than the continued increase in the number of infections, many find the current Regional Elections’ campaign period to be an additional cause of concern. Despite requests made by the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) to perform campaigns online, many candidates still choose to hold campaigns face-to-face. This is very risky, as campaign crowds are fertile plots for massive COVID-19 virus infections. KPU Commissioner Viryan Aziz admits that it is not easy to change the people’s habituated mindset from traditional to online campaigns. “Candidate Pairs have not made optimal use of online campaigning. Just about everyone is still trapped with the traditional campaign mindset,” Viryan stated in the discussion “Vulnerable Points in the Regional Elections during the Pandemic” held in Jakarta on Thursday (08/10/2020).
Even worse, many voters and officials in the Green Zone frequently request to be excused from wearing masks. “They joke, “Hey Mister, you don’t need to wear a mask, it’s safe here,”” he said. However, he continues to socialize about Regional Elections with strict implementation of health protocols. As there are no Government Regulations that stipulates a sanction of disqualification for anyone who violates health protocols, KPU is forced to optimize all existing regulations. KPU with the help of the Election Supervisory Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”) and relevant agencies will continue to work hard ensure that the next Regional Elections are both safe and democratic, by implementing strict health protocols.
Viryan said that the 2020 Regional Elections may be delayed if there are too many regions with such a high-risk level that it is impossible to continue. If the condition continues to worsen, delaying Regional Elections is allowed by Law. However, it might not be a total delay, as everything depends on the condition of each of the 270 regions participating in the Regional Elections. “As things are now, there are three possibilities: Going on as planned, partial delay, or total delay. If any delay is decided, that depends on the details in the relevant region’s condition,” he said.
KPU is still formulating the mechanism or technicality of voting in the voting booths by performing voting simulations. It will implement certain practices, based on the notes obtained during previous simulations, such as the fact that people continue to crowd outside voting booths as they waited for their turn to exercise their voting rights in the Regional Elections 2020. “An important issue is how to regulate attendees. We will create some sort of exit pool later – we will ask the people about their opinion if we hold elections for specific hours or similar issues,” Viryan said.
Viryan further promises that electoral organizers will continue to evaluate and adjust technical regulations for the upcoming Regional Elections on 9 December. This is necessary to ensure that everyone involved in it is truly safe from COVID-19. “In October, we are encouraging the regions to perform more simulations for prevention and anticipation. We note that many regions do not know that there are many technical adjustments made by KPU at regulation level for the 9 December election, and that we are preparing the relevant amendments to the relevant regulations,” he said.
Former KPU Commissioner Hadar Nafis Gumay stated that the many rules regulating the Regional Elections right now are not strong enough to serve as legal fencing that provides a sense of safety and security for people when they vote on 9 December 2020. They are very weak and do not cover all of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are encouraging the Government to issue new Government Regulations,” he said. “Existing sanctions for health violations are very weak, only as far as a written warning and ban on campaign activities, while compliance to health protocols is crucial for proper holding of Regional Elections amid the pandemic. No sanctions for violations in voting booths are set. Even worse, other relevant sanctions are regulated by separate laws and enforced by different enforcers. Such rules cannot serve as strong protective fencing for the Elections. We really need to have new Government Regulations issued to regulate the issue. Existing regulations have such limitations…they must also include disqualification of violators of campaign regulations, as well as a rule that allows people to vote by post or that allows preliminary votes before 9 December.”
Red Zones Everywhere
Meanwhile, Co-founder of KawalCOVID-19.id Ellina Ciptadi said that many regencies or towns (261 regencies or towns and nine provinces) participating in the upcoming Regional Elections have been designated as COVID-19 infection Red Zones. KawalCOVID19 does not use the Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red Zone system for mapping the alert or vulnerability level status of each area. They use White to Dark Red for designating their alert zones. “The darker the red, the more people in the area must be alert,” she said.
According to the results of daily surveillance, the majority of the regions participating in the Regional Elections – Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Java – carry a Red status. These regions must be strongly wary of COVID-19 infection. Therefore, these regions must regulate the execution of Regional Elections properly. This can start by determining the points most vulnerable to the spread of the virus and implementing Coronavirus prevention measures, especially in these points.
Griffith University epidemiologist Dicky Budiman reiterates that face-to-face campaigning is vulnerable to widespread infection of the Coronavirus. It will be very difficult to contain the spread of the virus during live campaigns, even if everyone obediently wears masks. “Speaking in a crowd, even with masks on – or more likely, people forgetting and taking off their masks as they speak during their campaign – means that there is a high potential of Coronavirus infection spreading widely. Especially since people would most likely not use surgical masks. This is something we all need to consider,” he said.
Another important thing is how to restrict the mobilization of participants to the campaign site. There is a very real concern that participants may already be infected with the Coronavirus during their travel, compounded with fear of widespread inspection due to the use of public facilities that are used for the same purpose with short intervals between the events. “No matter what, such facilities will be the source of widespread infection,” he said. (Dan)