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Violence Between Rival Political Parties Kills 2 in Bali - 2003-10-26

Political violence has flared on Indonesia's Bali Island, leaving two dead. The deaths occurred in a clash between supporters of Indonesia's two largest parties.

At least two people were killed and a number of others injured when supporters of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDIP, attacked the offices of rival political party Golkar in the town of Petandakan in central Bali.

In the last elections, held four years ago, Bali voted almost unanimously for PDIP, the party of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. But Megawati's popularity has been waning in recent months, and her rivals sense an opportunity to further erode her image.

The attack began on Saturday when supporters of Golkar, the party that kept former-president Suharto in power for more than 30 years, held an anniversary celebration at their Petandakan offices.

The spokeswoman for the Bali police, Colonel Gaut, confirmed that two people had died, but declined to identify them. She said that the head of Bali's police, General Mangku Pastika, who investigated the Bali terrorist bomb, was taking a special interest.

"The police we will try to develop the case. We are now still trying to do our investigation. General Mangku Pastika, he formed one special investigation unit to investigate that case," he said.

Indonesian democracy is at a delicate stage of its development - just four years after the grip of the Suharto regime was released as a result of public demonstrations.

The country is expected to hold general and presidential elections next year. But fears are mounting that the kind of violence seen during the weekend in Bali could become more commonplace as elections draw closer.

Rivalry is particularly intense between PDIP and Golkar. In the last elections, Golkar suffered from its association with the corrupt Suharto regime. But the party, which still has tremendous political momentum at the grassroots level, is expected to be the main challenger to the PDIP next year.