KPU considers separating national and regional legislative elections after 91 officials died on April 17

Voting station in Indonesia on April 17, 2019. Photo: Coconuts Media/Nadia Vetta Hamid
Voting station in Indonesia on April 17, 2019. Photo: Coconuts Media/Nadia Vetta Hamid

Update 4/26: According to the KPU’s latest figures, 1,470 election volunteers fell ill and 225 have died.

While the General Election Commission (KPU) has received much praise for their generally smooth implementation of the biggest one-day democratic elections in the world on Wednesday, there are now calls for the commission to be held to account after reports emerged that 91 election officials died on April 17.

As of Monday evening, KPU data showed that 91 election officials died — most of them officers who had been assigned to polling stations — and 374 fell ill on April 17 across 19 of Indonesia’s provinces. West Java had the highest number of deceased officials at 28, while Central Java came in next with 17.

Though the specific causes of death in each case have not been revealed, reports have suggested that many of the officials died because of exhaustion from being overworked on election day. For its part, KPU says it would consider reducing the workload for election officials on election day, possibly by separating national and regional legislative voting, in future elections.

“We have to figure out an election format that’s ideal for all of us. We saw extraordinary exhaustion on the part of election officers on the ground,” KPU Commissioner Ilham Saputra told Detik yesterday.

During last Wednesday’s election, for the first time ever, Indonesians voted for the president as well as legislators at the national (DPR), provincial and regency/city (DPRD) levels of parliament, as well as the Regional Representative Council (DPD), meaning that each voting station handled up to five elections.

Ilham says KPU is considering changing things up by 2024 by having DPRD elections carried out alongside regional head elections, while national elections would be separate from that and could involve picking the president, as well as representatives of the DPR and DPD, at the same time.

As for those officials who passed away on April 17, KPU says it’s going to ensure that their families will receive government compensation, pending a meeting to work out the details with the Finance Ministry scheduled today.

Whether or not it’s a good idea to separate the national and regional elections, it must be noted, as tweeted by The Associated Press’ Stephen Wright, that it may be too early to point the blame for the officials’ death solely on the KPU.

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