At least 225 Indonesian polling station workers and 16 police officers died mainly from exhaustion when the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation held its simultaneous presidential, legislative and local elections last week, officials said Thursday.
The stunning death toll prompted calls for the legislative and presidential elections to be held separately, as April 17 marked the first time that Indonesians voted for all offices in a single day.
“This is higher than the overall death toll of 150 during the 2014 elections” when the legislative and presidential elections were held three months apart, KPU commissioner Evi Novida Ginting Manik told BenarNews.
“The majority of deaths were reportedly due to exhaustion resulting from heavy workload,” she said, adding 1,470 other workers were stricken ill.
Almost 81 percent of 192 million eligible Indonesians voted in last week’s polls, electing a president, 575 members of the House of Representatives, 136 members of the Regional Representative Council and almost 20,000 members of local legislatures in 548 provinces, districts and municipalities, officials said.
More than 7 million workers were deployed nationwide and 245,000 candidates participated, according to the elections commission.
National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said only eight officers died during the 2014 election period.
“Exhaustion is the main cause, resulting from working long hours,” Dedi told reporters.
The commission has proposed compensation of up to 36 million rupiah ($2,500) for surviving families and up to 30 million ($2,100) each for those suffering permanent disability.
While results have not been declared official, incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has claimed victory based on the results of quick counts that showed him with a 10-percentage point lead over challenger Prabowo Subianto.
The Australia-based Lowy Institute, an independent and nonpartisan think-tank, described the vote as the “world’s biggest direct presidential elections (because the U.S. uses an electoral college) and one of the most complicated single-day elections in global history.”
“[T]he scale of Indonesia’s electoral process is mind-boggling, with five separate elections at once, for the president, both houses of parliament, provincial legislatures and district/city councils,” it said, noting that the 2019 parliamentary elections in India, the world’s most populous democracy, were being staged over six weeks in April and May.
A 2013 Constitutional Court ruling in favor of a citizens group’s petition demanding simultaneous elections on cost-saving grounds led to the one-day vote on April 17.
Titi Anggraini, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy, expressed hopes that the executive branch and the parliament would review the simultaneous elections.
“Because the scheme is very unreasonable in terms of workload. This is beyond a person’s normal work capacity,” Titi told BenarNews, while proposing national legislative election be held separately from the elections for provincial and municipal councils.
Legislator Ahmad Riza Patria said the parliament would conduct a review.
“As this was the first time the elections were held simultaneously, we have a lot of evaluation to do,” Ahmad Riza told the Detik.com news website.
Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said he is open to separate legislative and presidential elections, but there should be discussions with parliament leaders.
“This is a political issue. It cannot be discussed at the policy level,” Moeldoko said.