World

Indonesian govt urged to delay year-end elections as infections soar

Religious groups and experts say it is dangerous to carry on with regional polls as cases surge

JAKARTA: Indonesian religious groups and experts, including a former vice-president, are urging the authorities to delay regional elections set for December as coronavirus infections surge.

The country reported a record daily rise of 4,176 cases yesterday, taking its tally to 248,852. Deaths rose by 124 to 9,677, the highest number of fatalities in South-east Asia.

The Dec 9 elections for hundreds of key local leadership posts are a huge logistical undertaking in an archipelago of more than 260 million people and have already been delayed once due to rising virus fears.

Former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who now heads Indonesia's Red Cross, said in a newspaper commentary yesterday that the December polls could be dangerous.

"Forcing something that clearly, rationally endangers the people isn't only reckless but fatal. Every political process, the noblest goal is for the public's benefit. Not harm," he said.

Epidemiologists are concerned that the elections, for which there are 107 million eligible voters, will fuel the contagion.

Those already infected include government and election commission officials and three Cabinet ministers.

Indonesia's biggest religious groups, the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah, also urged the authorities to postpone the vote due to rising cases.

Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman said the ballot must go ahead as planned but with strict health protocols.

"President Joko Widodo reiterated that the elections cannot wait until the pandemic is over, because no countries know when Covid-19 is over," he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippines reported 3,475 infections and 15 deaths, the lowest daily increase in fatalities in two weeks. Total confirmed cases had increased to 290,190 while confirmed deaths had reached 4,999.

Malaysia reported 57 cases yesterday taking the total to 10,276 while the death toll remains at 130.

Australia's Victoria state yesterday reported its lowest daily rise in infections in three months, although state Premier Daniel Andrews said there were no plans yet to ease restrictions.

Victoria reported 11 cases in the past 24 hours, the smallest one-day jump since June 16. It also reported two deaths. Said Mr Andrews: "This is not just a good day. This is a great day." - REUTERS, THE STAR

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