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Govt. Hopes Aceh Party Will Join Election

BY ARIENTHA PRIMANITA
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)


Jakarta, TAG – Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said on Wednesday that he was optimistic the Aceh Party would finally agree to register its candidates for the upcoming polls in the province and bring the long-running standoff there to a close.
“We’re praying that now that a new window for registrations has been opened, the Aceh Party will also register its candidates,” he said. “The word is that they’re certainly going to make good on the opportunity.”

The minister’s remarks come a day after the Constitutional Court ruled that unregistered candidates should be given the chance to sign up. The ruling also stipulated that the polls be held as scheduled on Feb. 16, with no delays to accommodate the one-week window hopefuls now have to register their candidacies.

The prospects for the polls taking place next month, when voters in the country’s westernmost province will choose a governor, 14 district heads and four mayors, appeared shaky following political bickering over the issue of candidates.
The Home Affairs Ministry had been seeking a legal challenge to force the Aceh Independent Elections Commission (KIP) to carry out the registration of candidates anew, in response to a decision by the KIP to ban the Aceh Party from fielding candidates.
The ban was imposed after the party, which dominates the provincial legislature and derives its support from former members of the now-disbanded militant Free Aceh Movement (GAM), refused to register its candidates in light of an earlier Constitutional Court ruling allowing independent candidates to run.
Following the ruling, however, the party said it would not use the seven-day window to register its candidates.
Party spokesman Fachrul Razi said the rejection was based on its initial and overriding objection to the KIP allowing independent candidates to run, adding the decision on whether to register would depend on the outcome of a meeting this week.
The ruling also prompted the KIP to warn that the verification process for the new candidates would take up to two months, and not a week, which would postpone the polls until April.
Gamawan agreed there needed to be a delay, but said he would wait to see whether the Constitutional Court would issue a ruling on this point.
“Ideally the polls should be postponed for at least a few days to allow the verification process to be completed, but we have to wait and see what the court says,” he said.
In Banda Aceh, gubernatorial candidate Darni M. Daud said he doubted the polls would be held on Feb. 16.
“It’s definitely going to be delayed now that we’ve had this ruling to repoen the window for registrations. There’s no way the KIP can hold the elections on the date that they’ve set,” he said.
He added that although yet another delay was inevitable, the ruling was a welcome development because it would allow those who had been unable to register earlier due to the bickering to finally file their bids.
“With the entry of new candidates the elections will gain greater legitimacy,” Darni said.
Prior to the ruling, the KIP had registered only four gubernatorial candidates, including Darni. The others are Ahmad Tajuddin, Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar, and current Governor Irwandi Yusuf.
Irwandi’s attempt as to run as an independent candidate is at the heart of the dispute surrounding the polls, with the Aceh Party arguing that under the terms of the 2005 peace deal that ended almost three decades of bitter conflict in the province, independent gubernatorial candidates were only allowed in the 2006 elections.
Last year, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that the restriction was unlawful because national laws allowed independents to stand for all regional offices.
The lead-up to the polls have also been marred by a spate of unresolved shootings and firebombings that the House of Representatives has warned are politically motivated and should not be treated as normal crimes.
The shootings began in October and have continued into the new year. In the latest incident, the home of a prominent Aceh Party politician was firebombed on Jan. 10, although no one was injured.
Five days earlier, however, two construction workers from Java were wounded and another killed after an unknown gunman opened fire on a group of workers in Aceh Besar district. Prior to that incident, six people were killed in multiple shootings across the province since Dec. 30.[] 
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