Surrounded by forests, Indigenous Baduy tribe settlements, just a few hours' drive from the Indonesian capital, allow no election campaigning

Kanekes (Indonesia) (AFP) - In forests a few hours’ drive from Indonesia’s capital, there will be no presidential election campaigning by an Indigenous tribe that cares little for the outside world.

The Baduy, a community of around 16,000 people, subscribes to an ancient ancestral faith that venerates spirits and the power of nature.

Their customs dictate that they must also reject technology and other trappings of modern life.

There is an inner circle of the tribe whose members are regarded as the most pure, are cut off from the outside world, and live off nature.

The outer circle allows some limited technology, visitors and commerce, but the Baduy living there are still largely cut off from the rest of Indonesian society.

Their life on the periphery of modern Indonesia has created a complex phenomenon for election authorities ahead of Wednesday’s national elections.

Children from the Baduy tribe carry durian in Kanekes village, located in Indonesia's Banten province

Some members of the Baduy tribe’s outer circle will vote in Wednesday’s presidential and legislative elections, although they have little information to base their votes.

“Campaigning or (displaying) banners in the Baduy, that is prohibited. And then supporting… that is forbidden,” Emen, a 43-year-old farmer in Kanekes village who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

“So, in the Baduy, it is normal so far. It’s like there is no election.”

Emen said he did not follow the recent presidential and vice presidential debates and said he only knew the candidates’ names from his neighbours.

Kanekes village head Saija said Baduy tribespeople were banned from promoting candidates to prevent discord between tribe members.

“The Baduy people love peace, no violence, no fights. When the election is carried out, don’t let it cause division,” said Saija.

- Dummy ballot -

Yet some residents are aware of the importance of using their democratic rights and marking their ballot paper.

A Baduy woman weaves a traditional fabric as a fellow tribe member uses a smartphone behind her

”(The election) is important, as we must have a good leader. Primarily to make the country safe,” said 35-year-old Ijot as she weaved a traditional Baduy fabric at her house.

Some Baduy members have smartphones and said they got their information about the election from social media app TikTok.

In Kanekes, authorities will open 27 polling stations on Wednesday to allow more than 6,000 Baduy villagers to vote, local officials told AFP.

Baduy turnout in previous elections has been high, with more than half typically going to the polls, according to Ni’matullah, election commission head in Lebak regency, where the village is located.

In December, the commission carried out a vote simulation in Kanekes, which was welcomed enthusiastically by the villagers, said Ni’matullah.

“From the simulation, many voted correctly in the dummy ballot. Hopefully, it showed their understanding about the affairs of the general elections,” he told AFP.

One of the challenges for the organisers is distributing ballot papers and boxes, which will be done on foot due to the lack of vehicle access in Kanekes, said Ni’matullah.

Ni'matullah, chairman of the Lebak district Election Commission, told AFP that Baduy turnout has been high in previous polls

They have also prepared paraffin lamps or pre-charged LED lamps to illuminate voting stations across the village if the vote count goes into the night.

Emen said the key election issue for the tribe was the defence of its rights.

“For us, the main point is protection, protection from the government in the borders of the village and the protected forests,” he said.

But Emen said he had yet to make up his mind over who he will vote for.

“I will wait when I’m at the polling station,” he said.

“For how the Almighty directs me to vote.”