Political Power Struggles in Aceh

Jakarta, TAG - Rifts within the top ranks of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) suggest that a transfer of power to a younger generation is underway, a report said, Sunday (February 8, 2015).

This could have implications for the strength of GAM’s political vehicle, Partai Aceh. It could also affect relations with Jakarta, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said in a report named 'Political Power Struggles in Aceh' released in Jakarta.
It was the latest report that looks at how political power in Aceh is moving away from the old GAM government-in-exile. 
Authority is now derived more from control over local resources and political institutions than from closeness to GAM’s founders and service to the organisation, the report said.
According to IPAC, the situation makes Vice-Governor Muzakir Manaf, former top commander of the GAM guerrilla forces and head of Partai Aceh, the most powerful man in Aceh. He is increasingly at odds with Governor Zaini Abdullah, GAM’s former “foreign minister”, and other members of the old guard. 
“As the rift between Muzakir and the old diaspora elite deepens, younger members of Partai Aceh are trying to find a new basis for unity,” Sidney Jones, IPAC director, said. “They also need to make the party less thuggish and more democratic.”
The waning influence of the old guard, whose legitimacy rests in part on its role in the Helsinki talks, could weaken Partai Aceh, which portrays itself as the party that brought peace to Aceh.
Partai Aceh strategists are trying different strategies for strengthening the grassroots base to compensate, including by recruiting younger, more professional cadres.  
A highly publicised reconciliation meeting in Jakarta in late January between Muzakir and former governor Irwandi Jusuf has been seen by some as a necessary precursor to easing the GAM elders out.
In the meantime, rising stars from national parties are showing a kind of public appeal that Partai Aceh will struggle to match as long as its political machine relies heavily on poorly educated ex-combatants.
“Partai Aceh’s fortunes in the next round of elections in 2017 will depend not just on what happens to the old elite but to some extent on whether the party can distance itself from violence and intimidation and actually produce a workable program for change,” Jones said.
Aceh also needs the direct engagement of the president. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was personally involved in Aceh because the peace process happened on his watch.
Given President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's political problems, Aceh is probably the last thing on his mind, but it is critically important that Aceh policy not be left to the security sector.[]
Political Power Struggles in Aceh Political Power Struggles in Aceh Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on February 08, 2015 Rating: 5

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