Indonesia holds municipal elections despite rising Covid-19 cases

Jakarta, Dec 9 (efe-epa).- Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, holds municipal elections on Wednesday despite an increase in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks that has taken the total to more than half a million cases and 18,000 deaths.

The biggest fear is that the elections, which were postponed in September due to the novel coronavirus crisis, could lead to an even greater number of infections in the archipelago, where the health system is already under great pressure.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo admitted the challenge of holding elections amid the pandemic, and on a twitter post urged the people to wear masks, wash their hands and maintain appropriate physical distance between one another.

There are more than a hundred million eligible voters who will elect nearly 300 governors and mayors from hundreds of candidates, including the president’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 33, who is running for mayor of Solo city on Java island.

Polling stations had measures to ensure social distancing and hygiene to prevent contagion, although not everyone felt safe to go and cast their vote.

Irfan, a 33-year-old translator from Semarang, Java, told EFE that he would not go to vote in these elections due to fear of contracting the coronavirus, given that his family members fall in the high risk category – including his 90-year-old grandmother.

Moreover, he expressed doubts about the election commission’s ability to prevent crowding at polling stations.

The official results of the elections are expected to be made known by next week.

Besides Widodo’s son, his nephew Bobby Naution too is running for mayor of Medan, in the island of Sumatra, in a country where political clans and families are commonplace.

Other candidates from influential families include Siti Nur Azizah, daughter of Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, and a niece of the Defense Minister and former presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, an enemy turned ally of President Widodo.

According to the portal of the political analysis group, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the holding of elections has not changed the trend of the pandemic in countries such as Croatia, the Dominican Republic or South Korea, but has done so in other nations such as Poland, Serbia and Singapore, although they do not exclude factors other than voting.

Lindsay Maizland of the CFR said in an article that according to experts, elections held so far show that the risk of infections at polling stations drops if social distancing measures are adhered to, along with the use of masks and disinfection of surfaces. EFE-EPA


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