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Legislative Elections in Aceh Province, Indonesia


Legislative Elections in Aceh Province, Indonesia

Despite some unsuccessful violent attempts by the Free Aceh Movement to disrupt it, the Indonesian legislative elections on Monday 5th April in Aceh - the westernmost province of Indonesia - proceeded with few security problems.

The Bireun District Police Chief Handono Warih said that suspected separatist rebels shot and injured two civilians in an attack on a polling station in Bireun regency of Aceh province during Indonesia's parliamentary elections on Monday (5/4). The attackers struck about one hour before the polling station at Blang Rheum village in Bireuen district opened at 7 am. “The attackers must be GAM,” Warih said, referring to the acronym of the violent armed separatist group, the Free Aceh Movement. The shots injured two civilians helping to guard the polling station. Warih said there were four other attempts to disrupt the elections in Bireun. The other incidents included shots fired in the air with the obvious aim of discouraging people from voting.

During the election campaign the Free Aceh Movement had attempted to terrorize people to impede their participation in the elections. Separatist rebels in Aceh province had threatened to shoot or fine residents who voted in Monday's Indonesian legislative elections, an election monitor said Saturday (3/4). The Free Aceh Movement rebels in Aceh Jaya district had threatened to beat legislative candidates, issued leaflets forbidding residents from voting, and threatened to shoot people, said Taf Haikal, chief of the Aceh Non-governmental Organization Forum. “A number of villages have reported these threats,” Haikal said. The long-standing organization has been active in voter education ahead of last Monday’s ballot for national and local legislatures and is one of the agencies that monitored the vote in Aceh. Haikal produced the Free Aceh Movement leaflets as well as a letter signed by six village chiefs who said the Free Aceh Movement would fine voters 1 million rupiahs (approximately 117 US dollars). The letter also said that rebels threatened to amputate the fingers of anyone found with the tell-tale ink marking them as having voted.

Elly Sufriadi, the Executive Director of the Indonesian Rectors’ Forum (FRI)-Aceh Chapter, said that observers of his organization who had monitored Monday’s legislative elections in seven districts and cities in Aceh, observed that the voting was carried out smoothly and safely and that the level of participation of the Acehnese population was reasonably high, as evidenced by the large number of local people coming to the polling stations to cast their vote.

The Aceh provincial elections supervisory committee accredited 11,036 observers from 18 organizations, including foreign observers from the European Union and Japan. “The observers will monitor how the people exercise their right to vote” local elections supervisory committee chairman Zuhri Hasibuan said on Sunday (4/4). Four foreign observers from the European Union arrived on Saturday (3/4) in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh. In addition to the EU observers, there were other foreign monitors in the province, including at least two Japanese Embassy staff members. Several other groups of international election monitors were also present in other parts of Indonesia.

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