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Overwork kills 272 Indonesian election staff

Shamil Shams with AFP
April 28, 2019

Dubbed the "world's most complicated election," the April 17 vote involved nearly 6,000,000 election workers and 810,000 polling stations. Hundreds of election workers died from exhaustion, authorities say.

Electoral workers help an elderly woman cast her ballot
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Syuflana

Ten days after Indonesia held elections, at least 272 election workers have died from illnesses caused by long hours of polls-related work, an official said on Sunday.

Arief Priyo Susanto, the spokesman for Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU), said that as of Saturday night, 272 election officials had died from overwork, while 1,878 others had fallen sick.

Susanto said the Finance Ministry is working to provide compensation for families of the deceased, while health facilities will be given to the sick election staff.

Read more: Indonesia elections: Personality, religion and politics

Massive elections

The April 17 Indonesian elections were a massive undertaking, with presidential, parliamentary, regional and local elections all taking place at the same time in a country with 193 million eligible voters spread across three time zones; from Papua in the east to the tip of Sumatra over 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) away in the west.

According to the Australia-based think tank Lowy Institute, these five simultaneous elections combined more than 245,000 candidates, contesting a total of 20,000 seats in local, regional and national legislatures. The elections involved nearly 6,000,000 workers and 810,000 polling stations. Lowy dubbed it the "world's most complicated election."

The Southeast Asian country combined the presidential vote with national, regional and parliamentary ones for the first time in its history, in an effort to reduce election costs. But conducting the eight-hour vote in the world's largest island country, with 17,000 thousand islands stretched over more than 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles), proved to be an unhealthy task for many election staffers. In Indonesia, the election staff have to count millions of ballot papers by hand.

Read more: Opinion: Joko Widodo's last chance to fulfill his promises to Indonesia


The country's election authorities have come under fire due to the rising death toll.

"The KPU is not prudent in managing the workload of staff," news website Kumparan.com quoted Ahmad Muzani, deputy chairman of opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto's campaign, as saying.

Prabowo alleged widespread irregularities in the April 17 vote, with his campaign claiming some officials punched ballots in favor of the incumbent President Joko Widodo.

Exit polls suggest Widodo won the election by 9-10% points. The election commission will announce the official results of presidential, parliamentary and regional votes on May 22.

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