From tragedy to peaceful elections December 12, 2006Posted by elizabethwong in Democracy, Human Rights, International, Southeast Asia.
(Photograph dated 21 Dec 2005, Blang Padang, Banda Aceh. The event was the final handover of weapons from GAM to the Asean-EU Monitoring Group, in accordance with the peace agreement.)
If exit polls are accurate, Irwandi Yusuf (second from left) and his running mate, Muhammad Nazar are set to win the Governor and vice-Governorship of Aceh, in the first direct elections of the province. Some 90 percent of the population reportedly turned up to vote, making this election not only a milestone in the history of the Republic, but also presenting the unbending and incredible will of the Acehnese to experience self-governance.
This is another historic moment for the people of Aceh, who have experienced close to thirty tumultuous years of martial law and violence.
Irwandi is a former academic, one of the leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and a political prisoner freed by the force of nature during the Tsunami on 26 Dec 2004, whereas Muhammad, heads SIRA (a pro-referendum group, which organised a million people on the streets in 1999, before he was hunted down by the Indonesian military and put in prison for ‘treason’).
The duo, who command enormous respect from the grassroots, much to the chagrin of Jakarta and some sections of civil society, should come as no surprise to long-time observers of Aceh politics.
They easily defeated the mainstream parties seen to be from the central government such as the Islamist parties PPP and PKS, as well as the lesser-known leaders from the pro-independence and civil society movement.
Key to a successful transition of power will be how the newly elected team negotiates for more rights with Jakarta, and the revitalization of Aceh’s reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, which have gone off the international radar for a while. Until today, there are still thousands who live in tents and temporary housing.
Both Irwandi and Muhammad will have this very difficult task of continuing with the reconstruction process while attempting to sidestep potential political landmines. Some of the pressure points will include how natural resources will be redistributed and heeding the increasing calls from the population for a ‘KKR’ (Komisi Kebenaran and Rekonsiliasi or a Truth Commission) to be set up, despite the obvious disapproval from Jakarta.