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Fears of Intimidation in Count After Monday’s Aceh Poll

BY NURDIN HASAN
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)

Aceh gubernatorial candidates and deputies participated in a debate in Aceh on Thursday evening ahead of Monday’s local election (ACEHKITA PHOTO)

Banda Aceh, TAG – An Aceh election official has warned of potential dirty tricks and intimidation in the province’s remote areas during the vote count that will follow Monday’s local elections.
Aceh Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) chairman Nyak Arief Fadhillah Syah called on authorities to anticipate violence and to provide protection for villagers so they can participate in the elections peacefully.
The Acehnese will vote for a governor, 13 district heads and four mayors on Monday.
“The potential for unfair practices is very big because the people, village heads and village electoral organizers have been receiving terror threats and intimidation to get certain contenders to win,” Nyak Arief said in an interview on Friday.
Electioneering officially stopped on Friday following a 14-day campaign period to attract the sympathies of the province’s 3,244,680 registered voters.
Nyak Arief said terror and intimidation were most likely to occur in remote areas in Pidie, Bireuen, North Aceh, East Aceh and Bener Meriah districts due to the difficult access and lack of any information networks.
“Based on the experience of the 2006 regional elections and 2009 legislative elections, intimidation can happen in a most vulgar manner during the quiet period. If a certain contender doesn’t win, the lives of village heads or poll station officers could be in danger,” he said.
Aside from cheating committed by electoral organizers during the vote recapitulation process in the subdistrict levels, the organizers could also face threats from supporters of certain candidates.
“It’s hard to identify who committed intimidating practices because there is no evidence or witnesses and people usually refuse to report any intimidation,” he said.
Nyak Arief called on the Acehnese to fight any form of intimidation and terror. “If we are afraid, the groups will become more aggressive and that could hurt the democracy process that we are building in Aceh.”
The Panwaslu has sent 270 volunteers in terror-prone areas to monitor the election process.
Aside from Panwaslu volunteers, several local, national and international observers have also sent volunteers to monitor the election process.
Panwaslu found 59 violations during the campaign period that included six criminal cases while the rest were administrative violations committed by the candidates and their supporters.
Panwaslu reported the administrative violations to the Aceh Independent Election Commission (KIP) and the criminal cases to the Aceh Police.
Panwaslu also received 57 reports of violence and intimidations during the campaign period, which were mostly committed by supporters of gubernatorial candidates Irwandi Yusuf and Zaini Abdullah who were both former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) officials.
Executive director of the Coalition of Human Rights NGOs Evi Narti Zein said volunteers often received threats and intimidation while doing their jobs.
“Some of our volunteers in the regions received threats when they monitored the election process especially during the campaign period,” she said, adding that the coalition had sent out 108 volunteers to 18 districts/cities.
Evi said it was not easy for them to prove the threats because the perpetrators were unknown and no pieces of evidence were found.
“Most of the violence occurred in the early hours that made it difficult for Panwaslu and security officers to identify the perpetrators,” she said.
Aceh NGO Forum executive director Sudarman said there where 40 cases of violence during the campaign period that involved supporters of candidates. Most of the cases occurred in eastern coastal areas of Aceh. []
Fears of Intimidation in Count After Monday’s Aceh Poll Fears of Intimidation in Count After Monday’s Aceh Poll Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 07, 2012 Rating: 5

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