With the country in a state of emergency, Vanuatu election officials came up with a novel way to keep their election transparent: putting the counting on livestream. Jamie Tahana watched for hours, and wrote this review.
It was a bit like test cricket.
Long middling periods of tedium, punctuated by momentary peaks that made it all worthwhile. The patience and focus was etched across the players' faces.
But in this case, the players were four electoral officials, and rather than ball-by-ball, they eked the day away ballot by ballot.
Welcome to a novel and unique sport in this coronavirus lockdown world: the official livestream of the counting from Vanuatu's election.
Live on the website of the national broadcaster, VBTC, came a five-hour marathon of democracy. Four officials, one in a vibrant orange football jersey, gathered around a table, pen, highlighter and ruler in hand.
Plastic containers, bound with cable ties punctured through the green lids, were stacked along the back wall. The scissors would come out, the satisfying snap popping through the speakers, and out spilled the yellow envelopes.
One by one they'd check and cross check. Muttering numbers, determined focus on their faces.
There were multiple camera angles - one from afar, showing the table in the centre, the multi coloured curtains tied to the far walls, orange and green floral arrangements adding extra pizzazz.
The second would pivot across the room, following one official as she walked from table to back wall to collect the next container. Or, in other moments of action, putting what had been counted into even bigger yellow envelopes.
A third would go in for the close up. The slow scrawl across a page, the dramatic punch into the calculator.
There were microphones rigged up on the table. The officials would explain what they were doing as they went. This was democracy in action, and it was free for all to enjoy.
The decision to live stream the counting was a unique one, made in an election that has already been tripped by storms, death and the global coronavirus pandemic.
The country went to the polls on 19 March, in some northern islands, this was extended to 20 March, as bad weather prevented ballot boxes from reaching some islands. In this vast country of about 80 islands spread across 1,300km of ocean, they then all had to make their way back.
Last week the country's electoral commissioner, Martin Tete, died of natural causes in what had been described as an incalculable loss for Vanuatu.
The loss of Mr Tete was also a hurdle for the Electoral Office. Not only had they lost an esteemed colleague, by law, counting was not possible until a new commissioner was appointed.
The principal electoral officer, Joe Iati, last week told RNZ Pacific a quorum was needed for counting to begin, and the two members of the commission and the electoral officer needed to be present. That's not possible when one is dead.
That replacement came this week, when a new chairman was appointed by the president of Vanuatu.
But in that time, Vanuatu had entered a state of emergency because of the global spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19. By government orders, public gatherings of more than five people are now prohibited.
That made counting thousands of ballots, with international observers hovering overhead, quite difficult.
"Initially we have more than five observers in one room to witness the official counting of election votes but we have to comply with the orders stating that not over five people can assemble together," the caretaker minister of internal affairs, Andrew Napuat, told the Daily Post.
So the idea of a livestream was born.
On Monday night, about 400 people tuned into the VBTC Facebook page to watch the latest prime-time feature. The production value was high, the sound quality was good, with microphones on the tables, and extra laid out to get the atmosphere of the hall - the sniffles, the clearing of throats, the scrawl of pens, the shuffle of feet. There were multiple camera angles, and the stream was good. The officials would even commentate themselves (in Bislama) at times.
For hours they counted and counted, knuckling down like a batsman on a turning pitch, slow and steady, just nudging for singles.
Then, as dark descended across Vanuatu, they called play for the day. The four officials bowed their heads, and ended with a prayer. Play on day two would resume at 7:30 Tuesday.
I'd hope they'd raise their bat when they got to 100, or at least their plastic ruler.
Maybe I'm just missing sport, but what an inspiring alternative. Truly democracy in action.