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EU Monitor Head Confident Aceh Elections Will be Peaceful

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

The head of the European Union's election mission says the December elections in Indonesia's tsunami ravaged Aceh province are the best hope for the region's peace and stability.

The head of the European Union's 80-member Election Observation Mission, Glyn Ford, says he is optimistic the December 11 provincial elections in Aceh will run smoothly and without violence.

These elections came about partly as a result of the December 2004 tsunami that devastated the province located on the northern tip of Sumatra island. More than 160,000 people were killed and much of the region's infrastructure destroyed.

The disaster helped bring the government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement to the negotiating table. In August 2005, both sides agreed to end the 29-year conflict that had killed at least 15,000 people, most of them civilians.

Thanks to the peace agreement, the Free Aceh Movement became a political movement and will be fielding candidates.

Ford says the chance for conflict or violence following the election is very low.

"Having met with all but two of the candidate pairs, I think the biggest problem is that everybody is very confident. So our job will be to convince, not the winners that they have won, but the losers that they have lost fairly," he said.

Ford adds that election officials and candidates have a common interest in election fairness and a peaceful outcome.

"I think people realize in Aceh, people on all sides and different sides, that this is the last best chance for peace in Aceh for this generation. Because if this fails, I mean, what has been a problem for the last quarter century will be a problem for the next quarter century," he said.

Eight people led by Ford have begun their monitoring work before the elections. The rest of the 80-member group is expected in Aceh in the next few weeks.

The EU monitoring team will include more than 200 local members in 12 offices across Aceh to help ensure a free and fair vote.

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