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Aceh to go to polls despite violence

Indonesian province deploys police to booths

Aceh to go to polls despite violence

Ferry Kusuma speaks to the General Election Commission in Jakarta

Heavy security has been deployed in Aceh province as it prepares for Indonesia’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday, with ongoing fears about a continuation of the violence that has hampered preparation for the polls in recent months.

Voting will still go ahead in the volatile province for polls that are set to have a major effect on the presidential elections in July, election commissioners have said.

Aceh police spokesman Gustav Leo said that 3,408 polling stations located in towns and districts are prone to violence, therefore warranting a heavy police presence. 

Since January, 51 incidences of election-related violence have been reported, with five people killed. The latest incident occurred on April 1 in Bireuen district, when three people, including an 18-month-old child, were killed by unknown gunmen riding on motorcycles.

The gunmen fired live ammunition at a minibus in which the three were traveling. The minibus had the image of a candidate from the local Aceh Party (PA) on its side.

Human rights activists from seven organizations, including the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), told the General Elections Commission (KPU) to postpone the elections in the province if the situation remained volatile.

Ferry Kusuma, one of the activists, said on Monday that people were still afraid to vote. “The elections in Aceh cannot be done if the situation is frightening … peace in Aceh is more important than the elections,” he said.

In a statement issued on April 4, Amnesty International said the violence is believed to be related mainly to the rivalry between factions of the former armed pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which fought the government between 1976 and 2005.

Junaidi, from the Aceh Election Independent Commission (KIP Aceh), told ucanews.com on Tuesday that he was optimistic about the polling and could “guarantee people’s safety”.

“There were shootings here, indeed,” he said. “Of course, people are very concerned about security issue. So far, however, the situation is conducive. We have coordinated with the police. The elections can be done, no postponement.”

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