Aceh prepares for landmark vote
Elections seen as key to cementing peace deal in troubled Indonesian province.
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2006 08:53 GMT

Candidates have signed a pledge to keep the campaign free from violence

Election campaigning has begun in Indonesia's war-torn and disaster-stricken province of Aceh, in preparation for a landmark vote next month.
The elections, slated for December 11, will mark the northern province’s first ever direct vote for top executive posts, including the provincial governor and deputy governor.
The candidates have signed a pledge not to use violence or intimidation in the election.
However, a day before the official start of the campaign, one of the candidates for the provincial governorship was attacked by a mob in the province's Bireuen district.
Ahmad Humam Hamid said he and his campaign team were attacked by men claiming to be supporters of an official in the former secessionist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
Hamid said the assailants burned campaign materials and vandalized vehicles used by his team.
Lasting peace
European Union election monitors
are in Aceh to oversee the vote
Nonetheless most observers predict the campaigns and elections will be mostly free from violence with a succesful vote seen as vital to ensuring a lasting peace in the province. 
The European Union is sending an 80-member monitoring team to verify that the elections are fair and democratic.
Aceh has been left battered by decades of civil war and the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which killed more than 130,000 people in the province.
The disaster helped spur a peace agreement between GAM and the government in Jakarta signed in December last year.
With more than 15,000 people killed in the secessionist conflict, both sides agreed they did not want to contribute to any more suffering.
Several former GAM rebels are standing as candidates in the elections.
The government has allowed them to participate in politics in exchange for giving up their arms and dropping their independence bid.
Aside from the governor and deputy, 19 regents and mayors across Aceh are up for election.
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