Carrying ballot boxes on their backs, Indonesian tribesmen climbed barefoot up a mountain in a remote part of Borneo island to ensure a small village would not miss the chance to take part in tomorrow’s presidential poll. It is just one example of the great lengths gone to in the world’s biggest archipelago nation, home to some 6,000 inhabited islands and stretching around 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometres) from east to west, to organise elections.Months of painstaking preparation culminate in a weeks-long operation, with ballots taken in speedboats out to remote islands, carried on horseback along mountain paths, and in helicopters and small planes to far-flung hamlets. There will be some 480,000 polling stations set up for the vote across the world’s third-biggest democracy. Some 190 million eligible voters will cast ballots, from the crowded main island of Java – where more than half of the country’s inhabitants live – to mountainous eastern Papua, and jungle-clad Sumatra in the west.
“Geography is always a problem in Indonesia,” election commission spokesman Arief Priyo Susanto told AFP, ahead of this week’s poll in which Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and ex-general Prabowo Subianto are in a tight race.
“We distribute logistics to the most remote and least accessible areas first.”
The 15 men delivering voting slips on Borneo were from the Dayak tribe, feared in the past for ritually decapitating their enemies then preserving their heads, and they faced a two-day trek over mountains and through the jungle to reach Juhu village.
They ran a gauntlet of wild boars stampeding through the jungle and streams filled with blood-sucking leeches, in areas where there is no phone signal and temperatures plunge at night, local election commission chief Subhani told AFP.
“It’s better to walk non-stop for 18 hours than to sleep overnight,” added the official, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.