Over 270 workers engaged in counting and monitoring the ballot papers by hand have died in Indonesia after the country conducted the world's largest single-day elections. The Election Commission of the country, KPU, has stated that nearly 1,878 staff members have taken ill due to the fatigue caused by extraordinary long hours of work while counting votes. Indonesia had decided to combine the presidential votes with regional parliamentary elections on the same day to cut down on its expenses.
"As of Saturday night, 272 election officials had died, mostly from overwork-related illnesses, while 1,878 others had fallen ill," Arief Priyo Susanto, the spokesman of the General Elections Commission (KPU), told Reuters. On April 17, 80 per cent of the total 193 million citizens had voted during the eight-hour exercise across 80,000 polling stations. Each voter was supposed to poll five votes for presidential and regional candidates.
Nearly seven million workers have been involved in the vote counting process which is still underway. The results of the elections are expected to be out by May 23. The officials reportedly are working long stretches under hot and sweltering conditions.
The fatigue related to the polling exercise has taken a heavy toll on the election workers with the health ministry estimating a further rise in vote-count deaths. An advisory was issued by the health officials on April 23 so that the sick staffers are taken care of whereas the finance ministry also announced compensation for the families of the deceased.
The opposition Presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, has criticised the Election Commission for ignoring its staff and also alleged widespread cheating in the single-day voting exercise. He even alleged that election officials were punching votes in favour of President Joko Widodo.
"The KPU is not prudent in managing the workload of staff," Ahmad Muzani, the deputy chairman of the campaign of opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, said as reported by news website Kumparan.com
The Election Commission has also come under sharp criticism for compensating the families of the deceased workers inadequately. The KPU plans to pay $2,500 for each of the workers - which is approximately one year's pay at minimum wage.
The quick counting and opinion polls have given a slight edge to the incumbent President over the opposition although each of the contesting parties has already declared separate victories.