JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia held nationwide regional elections on Wednesday (9 October) amid a drastic surge in the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and widespread calls for the tighter implementation of health and safety protocols.
Voters were required to wash their hands before casting their ballots in booths and were asked to wear single-use gloves before using the provided nails to puncture their ballot papers.
They also had their temperature checked. Special booths were set up to accommodate voters with higher body temperatures than normal.
Some polling stations restricted the numbers of voters to avoid forming crowds as seen in one of the polling stations in Depok, West Java.
COVID-19 patients also voted in self-isolation
Workers in the polling station working committee (KPPS) in some regions were tasked to visit COVID-19 patients to make sure they could vote during their self-quarantine.
Around 43 workers in protective suits walked around a village in Purbalingga Regency, Central Java to visit COVID-19 patients in their homes, Kompas reported.
However, epidemiologist Dicky Budiman warned of the danger of the General Election Commission (KPU) sending KPPS workers to COVID-19 patients’ homes, as patients can only interact with health workers.
Even medical workers who abide by tight health protocols could possibly contract the virus quickly.
Experts from Griffith University warned, as cited in Ayo Bandung, that protective clothing (APD) would mean nothing if the rate of positive cases is above 10 per cent.
On Monday, the rate of positive cases broke the previous record, reaching 26.67 per cent, according to data from the Health Ministry.
Jokowi’s son, son-in-law dominated polls
President Joko Widodo (Jokowi)’s son Gibran Rakabuming Raka appeared to be leading the Solo mayoral election with his running mate Teguh Prakosa with 87.15 per cent of the vote, based on a quick count by Charta Politica.
Jokowi’s son-in-law Bobby Nasution and his running mate Aulia Rahman also led in the Medan mayoral poll by gaining around 53 per cent of the votes.
Separately, Siti Nur Azizah and Rahayu Saraswati Djojohadikusumo lost in the South Tangerang mayoral election against Benyamin Davnie and Pilar Saga Ichsan.
Siti is the daughter of vice-president Ma’ruf Amin, while Rahayu is the niece of Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto. Siti ran alongside Ruhamaben, while Rahayu ran alongside Muhammad.
While both Gibran and Bobby are newcomers in politics, they have garnered massive support from Indonesia’s major political parties.
This has led to some speculation on whether Jokowi, as President, is seeking to build his own political dynasty — particularly given that Jokowi’s ascendancy into the upper echelons of Indonesia’s public office was unrelated to any connections to the political elite.
Yoes Kenawas, a political doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, stated that this year’s regional election is the first time in which family members of the active president, vice-president, even ministers were participating in the poll.
Other countries also held elections during the pandemic
Indonesia is not the only country that has held elections during the pandemic.
Singapore, South Korea, the U.S and Poland are among the countries that did not postpone their polls this year.
Strict health protocols such as hand-washing, temperature-checking, and safe distancing guidelines were implemented during the said elections. Several countries recorded relatively high voter turnouts amid the global health crisis.
However, some countries also recorded low voter’s turnout in the pandemic-hit election. The legislative elections in Iran, for example, recorded a turnout of 42.6 per cent.
Public participation in the recent regional elections in Indonesia seems to vary. The Surabaya General Election Commission estimated that public participation in the mayoral election there hit 65 per cent.
Pemalang Regent Junaedi was pessimistic that the voter turnout would hit 77 per cent predicted by KPU, as many people chose not to leave their homes due to the pandemic.