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New Party Takes Up Fight in Aceh

BY NURDIN HASAN
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)

Banda Aceh, TAG – After their candidate lost the Aceh gubernatorial election to the Aceh Party candidate, a group of former high-ranking separatists is forming its own party to contest the legislative elections here in two years’ time.

Backers of the Aceh National Party (PNA) registered the organization with the provincial office of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry on Tuesday.
The party founders, all former members of the now-defunct Free Aceh Movement (GAM), named Irwansyah aka Mukhsalmina, the former spokesman of the Aceh Transitional Committee (KPA) — the body set up to accommodate former GAM rebels — as the PNA chairman.
The party’s secretary and second in command is Muharram Idris, the former GAM commander for Aceh Besar district and a former Aceh Party top official. Former Aceh Party spokesman Ligadinsyah is also joining the new organization.
All of the PNA’s founders were involved with either the Aceh Party or the KPA but were ejected for aligning with Governor Irwandi Yusuf in his failed re-election bid earlier this month. Their goal is to challenge the Aceh Party’s stranglehold on the local legislatures in the 2014 elections.
The Aceh Party currently controls 33 of the 69 seats in the provincial legislature and dominates most of the district and municipal-level legislatures in Aceh.
Irwandi, who lost the election to the Aceh Party’s Zaini Abdullah, was not present when the PNA members registered the party with the justice office.
However, Irwansyah said that Irwandi would play a key role in the PNA, whose logo sports the same orange logo that the governor used in his recent campaign.
“Irwandi is the chairman of the party’s advisory board,” Irwansyah said, adding that Sofyan Daud, the former GAM military spokesman, would be the secretary of the advisory board.
He said the full leadership structure of the PNA would be discussed and finalized at a congress once the party had passed the verification process by the Justice and Human Rights Ministry.
The verification process is required for parties seeking to contest the upcoming local elections, which will be held concurrently with the nationwide general elections.
Irwansyah said the PNA had already set up chapters in all 23 districts and cities throughout Aceh and was more than halfway through setting up offices in all subdistricts.
“The PNA will be a party open to all Aceh people. We will support all the pro-people programs introduced by Irwandi and will stand in the 2014 elections with the target of winning,” he said.
“We’re not an opposition party, but we will keep a close eye on all the development programs administered by the new Aceh government under the leadership of [governor-elect] Zaini. We will criticize any programs that we consider not pro-people.”
Teuku Ardiansyah, a political and security analyst from the Katahati Institute think tank, said the PNA’s chances of unseating the Aceh Party as the dominant political force in the province were small.
This, he said, is because the new party will also have to compete for votes with the national parties active in the province since before the formation of the Aceh Party, such as the Golkar Party, the Democratic Party and a host of Islamic-based parties.
Ardiansyah said the 55.75 percent of votes that Zaini won in the April 9 gubernatorial election was roughly the same as the 1.2 million votes that the Aceh Party got in the 2009 legislative elections, indicating that support for the party would likely remain unchanged through 2014.
“If the PNA can … win the same 700,000 votes in the 2014 polls that Irwandi got earlier this month, then they could get up to 10 seats in the provincial legislature,” he said.
“However, it will be very difficult for them to get that much, because a large portion of the votes for Irwandi were cast by supporters of the various national parties, whereas the Aceh Party has a fixed voter base.”
But with enough support, the PNA could pose a serious challenge to the Aceh Party, particularly if  Zaini’s administration proves unpopular by 2014, Ardiansyah said.
He suggested that the best way to appeal to voters in the meantime was to engage in social welfare and disaster response, citing similar efforts by the National Democrat (Nasdem) Party. []
New Party Takes Up Fight in Aceh New Party Takes Up Fight in Aceh Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 25, 2012 Rating: 5

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