5 Jul 2004

Papuans vote in Indonesia's presidential election

5:58 pm on 5 July 2004

People in Indonesia's province of Papua have been voting in the country's first presidential election.

Polling stations in Papua were the first in the archipelago to open.

Chris Holm reports.

"Voting in the Indonesian province of Papua went smoothly this morning, as voters in the main centres of Jayapura and Timika line up peacefully at ballot booths to choose the country's next president."

Booths opened at 7.30am local time, and will stay open until 1pm, when counting starts. Organisers said the turnout for the first ever direct presidential election was considered good for the remote province.

Voter numbers in Papua are generally lower than the rest of the country, because of the lack of roads and infrastructure, mean many people have to travel on foot to cast their votes.

The distances that ballot boxes have to travel also mean it can take many days for the votes to be counted.

And the possibilities for electoral fraud, always a problem in Indonesia's elections, is higher.

However, ballot observers have not reported any voting irregularities in the poll, and there were no reports of violence involving separatist groups or the military.