Aceh Election Office Attacked Amid Claims of Vote Buying
Banda Aceh. Just a day after Monday’s largely peaceful elections, protests flared up in Aceh over allegations of cheating.
In Gayo Lues district, one of 13 districts and four cities where voters turned out to choose a leader, some 3,000 people loyal to district head candidates Irmawan and Abdul Karim pelted the local office of the Aceh Independent Elections Commission (KIP) with rocks on Tuesday night.
They demanded the vote counting stop, claiming massive vote buying and cheating by the camp of the incumbent district head, Ibnu Hasyim.
“They damaged the fence and shattered all the windows at the office,” Alfin Anhar, the Gayo Lues KIP head, said on Wednesday. “They also burned down one of our cars, and torched five other cars and several motorcycles parked nearby.”
He added that although there was a heavy police and military presence at the office, the officers failed to prevent the attack because of the sheer number of people in the mob.
No official figures are available for the vote count in Gayo Lues, but Ibnu, backed by a broad coalition of parties, is widely reported to be ahead in the count. Monday’s elections were also held to choose a governor for Aceh.
Iskandar, the coordinator behind Tuesday night’s attack, said the mob was disappointed with the KIP for continuing to count the votes despite what he called cheating by Ibnu’s camp.
“The election in Gayo Lues was marred by cheating, vote buying and intimidation by the [incumbent],” he said.
“We demand a new election in which Ibnu is disqualified.”
He did not elaborate on the cheating claims.
Similar accusations were raised in Central Aceh district on Tuesday afternoon, where hundreds of supporters of 10 candidates rallied outside the office of the incumbent, Nasaruddin.
Local polling monitors promised to look into the allegations against Nasaruddin, backed by the Democratic Party.
In North Aceh district, nine candidates voiced their rejection of local poll results because of “the widespread threats and intimidation” by supporters of Muhammad Thaib, the candidate from the Aceh Party.
Interim results give Thaib 64 percent of the vote, with the second-placed candidate far behind with just 7.5 percent.
In a joint statement, the nine candidates, including incumbent district head Ilyas A. Hamid, said they had been subjected to threats since long before the polls. These included attempted bombings at certain candidates’ homes, arson attacks on their campaign vehicles and threats via text message.
Observers from the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) said the text message threats had been reported to poll monitors in Pidie, Pidie Jaya, Bireuen, Lhokseumawe and North Aceh, but there had been no follow-up.
Damaso Magbual, the Anfrel chairman, said there were also several irregularities during polling day, including one incident in which a local legislator arrived at a polling station and told voters to pick a certain candidate.
He added that at another polling station, poll workers were seen entering polling booths and coaching the voters on which candidates to choose.