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Indonesia polling day security forces to number 1.2 million

Close and bitter campaign raises fears of election violence

Indonesia polling day security forces to number 1.2 million

Indonesian officials guard ballot boxes carried by horses because of difficult terrain in rural East Java on Tuesday (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

Ryan Dagur and AFP, Jakarta

July 8, 2014

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Government officials said on Tuesday that about 1.2 million police and military personnel would be deployed across Indonesia for tomorrow’s presidential election to maintain security at polling sites and to curb threats of violence during what is expected to be a close vote.

Inspector General Ronny F Sompie, spokesperson for the National Police, said the added security would focus on specific areas of concern, as about 100 million voters are expected to turn out to cast their ballots.

“The police have given special attention to conflict-prone areas in the eastern part of Indonesia such as Papua and Maluku. The police have prepared a multi-layered security,” Sompie said on Tuesday.

He added that two security personnel would be assigned to each polling station nationwide.

“Intelligence personnel will also monitor the situation. In this way, potential conflicts can be prevented immediately.”

Sompie noted that areas of Jakarta, Solo and Yogyakarta was well as East Java would also receive special attention, as they had been scenes of campaign violence. 

In the Sleman district in Yogyakarta, a group of unknown assailants threw a petrol bomb at the house of a supporter of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle in early June.

Widodo had enjoyed a significant lead in early polling against his opponent, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, head of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), but that lead has narrowed in recent weeks.

The security concerns follow a bitterly contested campaign that in recent months has turned increasingly negative.

A poll released on Tuesday by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting had Widodo maintaining a slim lead of 2.7 points over Prabowo.

The pollster said that with the gap so narrow, the country’s third direct presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule in 1998 had become a test.

It warned there was the “potential for cheating” and that democracy “could collapse”, adding, “The worst scenario is chaos”.

Until several months ago, the 53-year-old Widodo looked to be on a smooth path to the presidency, with polls giving him a lead of about 30 percentage points over Prabowo.

But his support has shrunk dramatically in the face of a slick campaign by Prabowo and a flood of negative attacks.

Widodo, a former furniture exporter, has won huge popularity with his humble background and down-to-earth approach as Jakarta governor, and was credited with initiating projects to solve the capital’s myriad problems.

Prabowo, 63, has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists He was also formerly married to Suharto’s daughter, and critics fear he may shift Indonesia back towards authoritarian rule.

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