Monday 26 August 2019

270 'died from fatigue' counting ballot papers

 

Voters cast their ballots during elections at a polling station in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
Voters cast their ballots during elections at a polling station in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Gayaki Surayo

More than 270 workers have died in the 10 days since the Indonesia election, mostly of fatigue-related illnesses from long hours counting millions of ballot papers, according to officials.

The April 17 elections were the first time the country of 260 million people combined the presidential vote with national and regional parliamentary ones, with an aim to cut costs.

Voting was largely peaceful and was estimated to have drawn 80pc of the total 193 million voters, who each had to punch up to five ballot papers in more than 800,000 polling stations.

But conducting the eight-hour vote in a country that stretches more than 5,000km from its western to eastern tips proved to be both a Herculean logistical feat and deadly for officials, who had to count ballots by hand.

As of Saturday, 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 (KPU).

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

The KPU has been criticised by the opposition due to the rising death toll.

President Joko Widodo was the winner of the 2019 polls based on quick counts by independent observers, but full results won't be known until May 22.

Irish Independent

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