Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Nahdlatul Ulama Executive Board (PBNU) has called on the General Election Commission (KPU), the Government and the Indonesian Parliament to postpone the implementation of the 2020 simultaneous Regional Head Elections (Pilkada) for the sake of the public health.

"(We) request the General Election Commission of the Republic of Indonesia, the Government, and the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia to postpone the implementation of the 2020 simultaneous Pilkada until the health emergency stage is over," Chairman of PBNU Said Aqil Siroj said in a statement here on Sunday.

Despite applying strict health protocols, it would be very difficult to avoid crowds during the implementation of the local elections, NU, the country's largest Muslim organization, said.

NU also asked to reallocate the regional election budget for handling the health crisis and strengthening social safety nets.

The statement was issued following the spike in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia.

NU believed that the implementation of large-scale social distancing (PSBB) must not ignore the economic livelihood of the people.

However, because the transmission of COVID-19 has reached an emergency level, the government must prioritize the COVID-19 handling first.

Indonesia, the world's third largest democracy after the US and India, is once again gearing to hold simultaneous regional head elections (Pilkada) in 270 regions, or nearly half of its territories, on December 9 this year. As many as 734 nominee pairs have registered as candidate pairs for the 2020 Pilkada to be held simultaneously in nine provinces, 224 districts, and 37 cities.

The campaign period will last from September 26 to December 5, 2020, or 71 days. Initially, voting was scheduled to take place on September 23, 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voting day has been postponed to December 9, 2020. As many as 109,569,111 eligible voters are expected to turn out on polling day.

Despite strict implementation of the health protocols, a number of central and local KPU officers have contracted the novel coronavirus.

KPU Chairman Arif Budiman announced on September 18 that he tested positive for COVID-19 and would work from home.

Earlier, commissioner of the central KPU, Evi Novida Ginting Manik, also contracted COVID-19 in Jakarta.

In addition, at least 63 prospective candidates for the Pilkada contracted COVID-19, and the figure is likely to increase.

In Boyolali, Central Java, 96 officers of the local office of the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) were infected with COVID-19.

In Riau, the local KPU chairman, Ilham Muhammad Nasir, tested positive for COVID-19, hence other commissioners of the provincial KPU have also undergone testing for the virus.

Given the risk of holding a large public event, such as elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several parties have voiced their objection to it and sought a further postponement of the 2020 Pilkada.

According to a survey conducted by Polmatrix Indonesia, a large section of people want the 2020 Pilkada to be postponed.

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Translator: Boyke LW, Fardah
Editor: Suharto
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