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Aceh Quietly Votes for Change

BY NURDIN HASAN
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)
Banda Aceh, TAG - Millions of people in Aceh cast their ballots on Monday in largely peaceful elections that could usher in new leaders at the provincial, district and municipal levels.
“The level of participation in these regional elections was quite high this time, reaching 78.38 percent,” Candra Hendarnoto, a researcher with the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), said here in the provincial capital.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the preliminary results of LSI’s quick count in the governorship race at the end of election day, Candra said Zaini Abdullah and his running mate, Muzakir Manaf, who are backed by the ruling Aceh Party, appeared to have the lead.
Aceh Police Chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan, speaking separately, said that in general, the elections for governor and deputy governor, as well as the heads and deputies for 17 districts and municipalities, “proceeded smoothly and securely.”
He said the only arrests were made just hours before polling stations across the province opened. One man was arrested in Pidie Jaya late on Sunday and three others were arrested in Lhokseumawe in the early hours of Monday.
“They tried to force residents to vote for a particular candidate,” Iskandar said.
“The police will not compromise with these intimidators who can harm the festival of democracy in Aceh,” he added.
Candra said Zaini and Muzakir had received 54 percent of the vote, according to the quick count, while the incumbent governor, Irwandi Yusuf, and his running mate, Muhyan Yunan, were a distant second with 29 percent.
In third place was the former deputy governor, Muhammad Nazar, and Nova Iriansyah with 7.77 percent. Two other pairs of candidates had less than 5 percent of the vote each.
Candra said the LSI quick count’s margin of error was about 1 percent.
The Indonesian Survey Institute, which shares the same Indonesian initials, LSI, said voter turnout was 74 percent.
Its quick count results were very close to those of the Indonesian Survey Circle. It had Zaini and Muzakir in the lead with 55 percent of the vote, followed by Irwandi and Muhyan at 28 percent and Nazar and Nova with just 7 percent.
Candra said Zaini and Muzakir benefitted from the support of the Aceh Party, which was established by former guerrillas of the now-outlawed Free Aceh Movement (GAM). They did very good in former GAM strongholds such as Pidie, Pidie Jaya, North Aceh, Lhokseumawe, East Aceh, Bireuen and Langsa.
Zaini is a former foreign minister of the GAM government in exile, while Muzakir is its former top military commander.
The simultaneous elections in Aceh weree the second since the ones in 2006, which followed the 2005 peace pact signed by GAM and the government.
Aceh Police’s Iskandar said a total of 8,776 police officers, reinforced by 1,730 members of the Armed Forces (TNI) and 20,200 civilian guards, provided security at 9,786 polling stations across the province.
Eliana, a housewife in Banda Aceh, said, “I hope that whoever is elected … can maintain the peace and bring progress and prosperity for Aceh. There should not be a return to conflict pitting Acehnese against each other, and those candidates who lose should accept their loss with an open heart.”
Eliana came to her polling station long before it was due to open at 8 a.m., but found there was already a long queue.
Irwandi told journalists after voting that he would abide by the official results of the elections and hoped that whoever won could safeguard the peace.
Muzakir, who cast his ballot in North Aceh, said he was optimistic the Aceh Party would win the elections.[]
Aceh Quietly Votes for Change Aceh Quietly Votes for Change Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 10, 2012 Rating: 5

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