270 die counting votes by hand In Indonesia

Jakarta, April 28, 2019: What will happen if a large country conducts several elections at the same time to cut costs? It could be fatal at least for some election officials, as happened in Indonesia.

Indonesia, a country that stretches more than 5,000 km from its western to eastern tips, on April 17 held the world’s biggest single-day elections. Ten days later more than 270 election staff have died, mostly of fatigue-related illnesses.

The elections were the first time the country of 260 million people conducted the presidential vote along with national and regional parliamentary ones. The aim was to cut costs.

An estimated 80 percent of the total 193 million voters exercised their franchise in an election that was largely peaceful. They had to punch up to five ballot papers in more than 800,000 polling stations.

Officials had to count millions of ballot papers by hand, causing fatigue from long hours of work, an official said on April 28.

As of April 27 night, 272 election officials had died, mostly from overwork-related illnesses, while 1,878 others had fallen ill, said Arief Priyo Susanto, spokesman of the General Elections Commission.

The Health Ministry issued a circular letter on April 23 urging health facilities to give utmost care for sick election staff, while the Finance Ministry is working on compensation for families of the deceased, Susanto added.

The election commission has come under fire due to the rising death toll.

The commission “is not prudent in managing the workload of staff,” said Ahmad Muzani, deputy chairman of the campaign of opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, reported by news website Kumparan.com.

Prabowo, who was the loser of the 2019 polls based on quick counts, had alleged widespread cheating and his campaign claimed some officials punched ballots in favour of incumbent President Joko Widodo. Widodo’s security minister said the allegations were baseless.

Both candidates have declared victory, though quick counts suggested Widodo won the election by around 9-10 percentage points.

The commission will conclude vote counting and announce winners of the presidential and parliamentary elections on May 22.


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