Indonesia lures voters with ghouls, superheroes and tonnes of fun

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AFP) – Dressed like Count Dracula, Yasim Adnan doesn’t look much like an election official, but neither do his staff who are decked out as mummies and spooky nuns with blood pouring from their eyes.

The 37-year-old Indonesian presided over one of the creepiest ballot stations in the Muslim majority country yesterday as it held a giant election that featured some 190 million voters and 245,000 candidates vying for public office, including a new president.

To bolster turnout at some 800,000 polling booths nationwide, election officials pulled out all the stops, from dressing like ghouls and superheroes to enlisting the help of elephants in Sumatra.

In Tangerang, outside the capital Jakarta, voters cast their ballots at Adnan’s horror-themed polling station which was outfitted with cardboard coffins and blood-stained rags that hung from the ceiling.

Staff were allowed any costume they chose, as long as it didn’t appear to favour either President Joko Widodo or his re-election rival Prabowo Subianto.

“We’re trying to attract people so there will be less golput,” Adnan told AFP, using the Indonesian term for citizens who don’t vote.

It seemed to work for some locals.

Electoral workers in superhero costumes show presidential ballot during the election at a polling station in Surabaya, Indonesia yesterday. – AP
An elderly woman is pushed on a rubber tube while commuting through a flooded area to a polling station during Indonesia’s General Election in Bandung yesterday. – AFP

“This is amazing – the theme is so different from other stations,” said 42-year-old Komariah Usia.

There was also a photo booth on hand for successful ballot casters – whose fingers were dipped in indelible ink to prevent double voting – keen to snap a picture of themselves as proof of their civic duty.

Some restaurants and other retailers were offering free food and drink to those held up their ink-stained finger as proof they voted.

In Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city, an Avengers-themed polling station also proved a hit.

Election officials there dressed as the cartoon superheroes as well as the Amazing Spiderman, helping disabled voters cast a ballot and pressing fingers into the Muslim-approved halal ink jars.

“We made it look this way to motivate millennials, especially first-time voters,” said polling station chief Andilio, who goes by one name.

But he also hoped that staff would take the Avengers costumes to heart by serving “voters just like how these characters would”.

“Safeguard democracy and the election so it will be smooth, safe, and peaceful,” he added.

Not to be outdone, officials in Sumatra enlisted the help of three critically endangered Sumatran elephants to boost voter numbers and raise awareness about their dwindling numbers in the wild.

The elephants were used to transport cardboard ballot boxes to polling stations in Central Trumon subdistrict – much to the entertainment of locals.