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Poll puts Aceh’s peace
record

Seven years after the end of a 30-year bloody separatist conflict, the future security and peace of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam will rest on Monday’s local gubernatorial election, which has already been marred with a wave of violence that is related to the supporters of candidates.

Around 3.2 million eligible voters are slated to go to the polls to select five candidates; former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) foreign affairs minister Zaini Abdullah, former GAM intelligence chief and Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf, prominent ulema Abu Lampisang, Aceh University Syiah Kuala rector Darni Daud and former deputy governor Muhammad Nazar.

But since December, Acehnese have been largely torn apart by rifts between former GAM commanders Zaini and Irwandi, leading to a string of armed violent incidents in the province that was struck by a deadly tsunami in late 2004.

Aceh is home to the success story that saw a massive post-tsunami reconstruction effort worth billions of dollars, financed mostly by international donors. The scale of the disaster was such that it killed more than 210,000 people and wiped out dozens of villages.

“The election will be a turning point for the Acehnese, who have undergone a drastic transformation to recover from armed conflicts and the destruction of the tsunami,” said National Human Rights Commission chairman Ifdhal Kasim on Sunday.

He urged security forces to seriously safeguard the election over concerns of more violence during and after the poll.

The Home Ministry decided the election day would be a local holiday to help ensure conducive conditions for polling day due to more than a dozen people being gunned down since December.

Security measures ahead of Monday’s vote include 7,930 police personnel, which amounts to two-thirds of the police force in the province. An additional 728 police personnel and 1,749 soldiers have been prepared from outside Aceh.

“We’re hoping to maintain a conducive situation by ensuring that logistics for the poll are ready,” said Roby Syahputra, an official from the Independent Aceh Election Commission.

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