Violent Clashes Intensifying Ahead of Aceh Elections
jakartaglobe.id, Jakarta. Dozens of incidents of election-related violence ranging from shootings to grenade attacks have erupted across Aceh as the Feb. 15 regional elections near, an election watchdog said on Thursday (09/02).
There have been no reports of casualties from the incidents in Indonesia’s westernmost province though state election supervisors have placed it second out of seven provinces most prone to conflicts related to Wednesday’s simultaneous elections in 101 regions across the country.
At least 26 cases of election-related violence have taken place in Aceh, a semi-autonomous province, since May last year, according to data from the Jakarta-based Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem).
Forty-nine percent of the incidents occurred within five months between May 28 and Oct. 27, or during the period allotted for voters registration and nomination.
The rest of the cases took place within four months since Oct. 28 to date, during the campaign period.
The figures show that the election-related incidents, typically involving fights and mass brawls, have not only increased but also intensified.
Titi Anggraini, the executive director of Perludem, said, “Looking at the still escalating political tension in Aceh, there might be more violent incidents on the horizon as election day nears.”
Aceh, the most conservative province in the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy, was granted a special autonomy status as part of a 2005 peace pact that ended a three-decades-old separatist insurgency.
Many ex-combatants have joined either the Aceh Party (PA) or the Aceh National Party (PNA), which are now competing in the Aceh gubernatorial election and minor elections in 20 cities and districts.
Most of the 26 incidents of election-related violence implicated members of the PNA both as the perpetrators and as victims, making up 40 percent of the total number of people involved, Titi said.
“Aside from the rivalry between the candidates and their supporters, Aceh’s long history of conflicts has also been a dominant factor triggering the violence,” she told the Jakarta Globe.
“Political tension has been escalating in Aceh, couple that with simmering sentiments between former combatants and the province’s long history of conflicts — we have a very volatile cocktail,” Titi added