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Peaceful Vote in Indonesia's Aceh Province

People flocked to polling stations across Indonesia's Aceh province to exercise their right to vote in the region's first direct election for the governor, town mayors, and other top officials. The vote is part of a process to end a separatist conflict that over 29 years claimed more than 15,000 lives. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in the regional capital Banda Aceh has more.

People across Aceh exercised their right to vote Monday in an election guaranteed by the peace agreement signed between the government and the Free Aceh Movement in August 2005.

The atmosphere was peaceful as entire families waited patiently in line to vote. Safriadi, a

30-year-old Acehnese mother of three, seemed to express the sentiment of many people here.

Safriadi says she is happy and hopeful because she believes this election will help cement the peace process. She adds that life is so much better now that the war has ended.

Among those running for governor and deputy governor are former rebels and a former general who once headed the fight against the separatists.

Many people hope this election, and continuing peace, will improve the economy of the province, which was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami two years ago.