’Overwork’ kills 270 Indonesian poll staff

More than 270 election workers in Indonesia have died, mostly of fatigue-related illnesses caused by long hours of work counting millions of ballot papers by hand, an official says.

Arief Priyo Susanto, spokesman of the General Elections Commission (KPU), said 1,878 other staff had fallen ill.

Some seven million people were helping count and monitor the April 17 vote.

Staff were expected to work through the night in sweltering conditions, which took a hefty physical toll on many.

The elections were the first time the country of 260 million people combined the presidential vote with national and regional parliamentary ballots, in order to save money.

Around 80 per cent of the 193 million eligible voters cast their votes in more than 800,000 polling stations.

But the huge numbers have apparently taken their toll on temporary election staff, who unlike civil servants, do not undergo a medical examination before starting work.

The KPU spokesman said 272 election workers had died from overwork-related illnesses.

Indonesia’s election commission plans to compensate surviving families 36 million rupiah (£1,930; $2,500), for every deceased worker – roughly equivalent to one year’s pay at minimum wage, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Critics say the government was not prudent for combining the elections and creating unrealistic expectations of temporary staff.

Both President Joko Widodo and opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto have declared victory, though quick counts suggested Mr Widodo won the election by around 9-10 percentage points.

The KPU will finish vote counting and announce winners of the presidential and parliamentary elections on May 22. –BBC

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