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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 15:32 GMT
Ex-rebel 'ahead' in Aceh election
Irwandi Yusuf
Irwandi Yusuf was in jail when the tsunami hit Aceh in 2004
A former rebel leader is on course to win the first direct elections for governor of Indonesia's Aceh province, according to unofficial results.

Irwandi Yusuf polled 39%, the Indonesia Survey Institute said after counting a representative sample of votes.

Mr Yusuf, formerly a spokesman of the Free Aceh Movement (Gam), was jailed for treason in 2003 but escaped when the 2004 tsunami struck his prison.

The elections follow last year's peace deal between Gam and the government.

Election rules state that if no candidate receives more than 25% of the vote in the first round, a second round is held.

The survey has a margin of error of one to two percent, according to AP news agency.

Official results will not be released until 2 January although similar "quick count" polls accurately forecast the result of national elections in Indonesia in 2004.

Peace talks

Much of Aceh was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.

ACEH PROVINCE
map
Province on the north-western tip of Sumatra
High percentage of Muslims, and only province where Sharia law allowed
Separatist rebels fought decades-long campaign against Jakarta
December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami devastated region
New peace talks led to August 2005 agreement
December 2006 elections for governor and district leaders

The scale of the disaster - which killed 170,000 people in Aceh - spurred the rebels and the government into peace talks.

Rebels gave up a demand for independence after winning autonomy and the right to participate fully in democratic elections, drawing a line under 29 years of war that left 15,000 dead.

A 2005 peace deal paved the way for Monday's election for the posts of governor and deputy governor - previously appointed by central government in Jakarta.

Eight pairs of candidates ran for the positions. District heads are also up for election.

There are about 2.6 million registered voters in Aceh.

Prior to the election result, Mr Yusuf said he was a reluctant candidate who had agreed to run at the urging of religious leaders and rebel commanders.

"Being the governor is like being in prison, I will lose my freedom," he said.


SEE ALSO
Former Aceh fighters face ballot box
11 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Aceh governor election
11 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Aceh wary over new Sharia police
08 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Viewpoints: Aceh's first elections
06 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Acehnese mark one year of peace
15 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
18 Oct 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Indonesia
18 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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