Indonesia pushed forward with holding previously postponed regional elections on Wednesday despite concerns about doing so amid the ongoing pandemic.
At least 105 million people were eligible to vote in elections being held to choose nine governors 37 mayors and 224 district chiefs across 270 regions. The polls were originally supposed to be held in September but were delayed because of the virus and the number of organizers who got sick.
The vote comes just days after Indonesia recorded its highest daily increase in new virus cases since the pandemic began — more than 8,000.
The pandemic was impacting the logistics of voting. Masks were required for voters and poll workers. Polling stations opened earlier than usual and each voter was given a scheduled hour during which they could vote.
LaporCOVID-19, a non-governmental community coalition collecting data on the pandemic, had called for the election to be postponed again.
Holding the poll amid the "uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic proves that that the government is ignorant of the health and safety of its citizens,” said Irma Hidayana, co-initiator of LaporCOVID-19.
The group said it tracked 76 candidates in the election who had contracted the virus and four who died.
Dida Ridwansyah, a voter in South Tangerang said he wasn't worried about the pandemic and felt the polls should be held.
“If we are talking about the pandemic, we cannot predict when it will end. As long as we can apply the health protocols, it would be run well. As an Indonesian, we have to support this regional election,” Ridwansyah said.
National COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said adhering to health protocols would be key.
“This regional election can only be said to be successful if it is held by enforcing health protocols so that there is no transmission of new cases,” Adisasmito said
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has reported more than 586,000 virus cases since the pandemic began with 18,000 deaths, the most in Southeast Asia.