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ICG Calls on Averting Election Violence in Aceh

BY NURDIN HASAN
Sidney Jones
Banda Aceh, TAG – A Brussels-based global think tank International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned that despite rhetorical commitments of all contenders to a peaceful election in Indonesia's Aceh province, the potential for isolated acts of violence between now and then is high and trouble after results are announced may be even higher, especially if it is a close election.

Aceh, a northern tip region of Sumatra island, will go to a long-awaited local polls to choose governor and vice governor, as well as 13 districts’ chiefs and deputies and four mayors and deputies on 9 April.
Getting as many trained monitors to Aceh as possible in the coming weeks is critical. Election monitors should begin deployment to Aceh long before the election to deter intimidation,” the ICG said in a press statement obtained by The Aceh Globe.
“Whether violence materialises will depend on several factors, including the speed with which local election monitors can take up position in some of the most contested districts, like Bireuen and east Aceh” districts,” Sidney Jones, ICG senior adviser, said.
“It is also important that the police move quickly to pursue those responsible for a series of killings in December and January so that rumours of political motivation can either be laid to rest or conclusively proven.”
The briefing examines the political and legal manoeuvres used by Aceh Party, the local political party created by the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the former rebel group, to delay the elections so that its main rival for the governorship, the incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, also a GAM member, could be forced from office after the expiration of his five-year term on 8 February 2012.
If the election were to take place after that date, CGI said, the government would have to appoint an acting governor, and Irwandi would be denied the opportunity to use the perks of office to campaign.
The local elections were originally scheduled for October 2011, but they were delayed first to 14 November, then to 24 December, then to 16 February and finally to 9 April.
When it seemed as though the postponement until 16 February would be the last, a series of killings targeting Javanese workers took place, beginning in early December last year.
Most of these crimes remain unsolved, but they seemed to some to be aimed at showing that security conditions were such as to prevent the elections from going forward, the group said.
There may be no connection, but once officials in Jakarta agreed to push for a further delay, the murders stopped, although other forms of violence continued, it stated.
The briefing looks at these attacks and notes that the burden is now on the police to pursue investigations vigorously so that the perpetrators can be identified and punished.
The election could be close. Aceh Party has the advantage of a strong political machine but has fielded a weak candidate for governor in Zaini Abdullah, former “foreign minister” of GAM's government in exile, ICG mentioned.
Former Governor Irwandi, now replaced by an acting Tarmizi Karim, is personally popular, especially because of a universal health insurance program he championed and commands the loyalty of many former guerrilla commanders, but he is standing as an independent and lacks any party organisational structure, it said.
“Aceh Party has shown a willingness to use fear tactics in a way that could persuade some voters that it is dangerous not to choose it,” the statement said.
“Getting election monitors to Aceh quickly should be seen as an investment in peace,” says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “This election is critical to Aceh’s future”.
The GAM reached a historic peace agreement with Indonesian government to end an armed separatist conflict in 2005 that estimated claiming more than 25,000 lives, mostly civilians. It was believed for the annals of successful conflict resolution in one of Asia’s longest-running civil wars.[]
More details of the ICG's update briefing that released on 29 February can be download here
ICG Calls on Averting Election Violence in Aceh ICG Calls on Averting Election Violence in Aceh Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on March 07, 2012 Rating: 5

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