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Aceh Poll by April, Court Confirms

BY AGUS TRIYONO & NURDIN HASAN
Jakarta/Banda Aceh, TAG – The decision earlier this month by polling officials in Aceh province to postpone February’s local elections to as late as April was approved by the Constitutional Court on Friday, but the move failed to end the months-long bickering in the issue.

“In light of the prevailing conditions and laws, we rule that the elections should be held no later than April 9, 2012,” Mahfud M.D., the court’s chief justice, said when reading out the ruling.
Early last week, the court ordered the reopening of the registration window for candidates who missed out on the twice previous periods. But the ruling also stipulated that the polls be held as scheduled on Feb. 16.
In response, the Aceh Independent Elections Commission (KIP) announced it had no choice but to push the polls back to April 9 to allow enough time to verify the new candidates, and called on the court to back its decision.
Ilham Saputra, the KIP deputy chairman, who attended Friday’s hearing in Jakarta, said his organization was “very pleased” with the ruling.
“We obviously welcome the postponement because there was no way that we were going to be able to hold the elections by February 16,” he said.
He added that even though the court had agreed with the KIP on the new date, the polling agency would still need to check with district and municipal polling officials in Aceh to check whether they would be prepared to hold the elections in time.
The polls, which will see voters choose a governor, 13 district heads and four mayors, had initially been scheduled for last November but were when the Aceh Party threatened a boycott in response to a Constitutional Court ruling allowing independent candidates to run.
At the time, the KIP went on to register candidates regardless of the boycott by the party, which dominates the provincial legislature and derives its support from former members of the now-disbanded militant Free Aceh Movement (GAM). 
The KIP also scheduled the polls on December 24, then rescheduled to February 16 after the Court in November last year ordered the reopening of the registration window for candidates who missed out on the previous periods.
The Aceh Party registered its candidates last week, days after the Constitutional Court ordered the reopening of the registration window for the second time, finally ending its months-long standoff with the electoral authority.
Fachrul Razi, a spokesman for the local party, welcomed the latest ruling and said it would “ensure room for all to participate in the democratic process.”
But the ruling came under attack by the camp of Governor Irwandi Yusuf, who is seeking re-election as an independent and registered his bid last year. Irwandi himself was a former of GAM member who broadly supported by former guerillas in the 2006 local election. 
Thamren Ananda, a spokesman for his campaign team said that by not locking in a specific date, the court was putting pressure on the polling agency to determine a date that would suit all sides.
“The ruling comes across as highly strange and politicized because it fails to give a concrete schedule for the elections,” he said.
“We’re now waiting to see whether the final date that the KIP decides on will disadvantage the candidates who registered earlier at the benefit of the others.”
He added his camp would have agreed if the court had ordered the polls postponed by no more than two weeks, “we were willing to compromise for the sake of political stability in Aceh." "But if our goodwill is responded to with rulings that continue to disadvantage us, then we will have to take the matter to court,” Thamren said.[]


Aceh Poll by April, Court Confirms Aceh Poll by April, Court Confirms Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on January 28, 2012 Rating: 5

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