TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The simultaneous regional elections could trigger new Covid-19 clusters. Continuing with them is a crime against the people’s constitutional rights.
THE elections for regional heads on December 9 this year could end in tragedy. In the middle of the increasingly serious Covid-19 pandemic, this festival of democracy could easily become a festival of virus contagion.
Political polling activist Muhammad Qudori estimates there will be 1.04 million gatherings of people throughout the period of these simultaneous regional elections in 19 provinces, 224 regencies and 37 cities in Indonesia. This total is based on 1,468 regional head candidates, and assumes that each of them will campaign in at least 10 locations per day for the 71 days of the campaign from September 26 to December 5.
With this assumption, at least 50.2 million people will be involved. With a Covid-19 fatality rate of 3.8 percent in Indonesia, it is estimated that 1.76 million people will die. Excessive? Try to reduce the assumption by 50 percent and the total is still horrifying.
The General Election Commission (KPU) has issued new regulations to ensure safe elections. In the previous KPU regulations, face to face campaigning could have a maximum of 100 participants, while now the maximum total has been halved. KPU regulations also ban public meetings, music concerts, art performances, mass walks and bicycle rides, races and a range of other social activities that might lead to people gathering.
On the ground, there is no guarantee that these rules will be followed. In Tegal, Central Java, a dangdut music concert was held, and the organizers went unpunished. KPU Chairman Arief Budiman and a number of commissioners were infected with Covid-19 long before polling day. A number of regional head candidates have also tested positive, and some have even died.
Closing their eyes and ears, the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) have decided that the regional elections will go ahead. They have put forward at least three reasons: the uncertainty about when the pandemic will end, the economic impact of the elections, and the argument that regional elections are the constitutional right of the people.
It is true that nobody knows when the pandemic will end. But the regional elections could be delayed until the pandemic graph falls. This would mean that using epidemiological studies, the elections could be held when the situation is seen as safe. However, the government must base its handling of the pandemic on facts and science -- not make arbitrary decisions while waiting for a vaccine. Not delaying the elections because it is not clear when the pandemic will end also feels contrived because the home affairs ministry recently delayed the election of a village head because of the increasingly serious pandemic.
Using economic reasons to continue with the regional elections is also clearly irresponsible. It is true that money is spent during the elections, but the effect is only temporary. The economy will not get moving if the pandemic cannot be controlled.
Going ahead with the elections to guarantee the people's constitutional rights seems at first glance to be logical. But we should remember that health is also a constitutional right of the people. Giving a constitutional right but forgetting the right to health is very wrong.
The government and the DPR must delay the elections. The threat of large numbers of deaths cannot be ignored simply because a few people are hungry for power. If they go ahead, it will be the turn of the people to take action: rather than dying for nothing, they would do better to not vote and boycott every stage of the regional elections.