Special rules needed to avoid complications in Aceh elections

Kompas – December 27, 2003
General Elections Monitoring Committee member Didik Supriyanto (Rumah Pemilu)
General Elections Monitoring Committee member Didik Supriyanto (Rumah Pemilu)

Jakarta – There is concern that the organisation of the general elections in Aceh will face a number of serious complications because there are a number of contradictory legal stipulations which cannot be resolved in terms of laws which regulate a military emergency and those which regulate elections.

Didik Supriyanto, a member of the General Elections Monitoring Committee (Panwas), has urged the government and the People’s Representative Assembly (DPR) to issue special legislation to regulate the organisation of elections in Aceh. “A presidential decree is just not enough”, he said.

Supriyanto said that the organisation of elections in Aceh under a military emergency was contradictory. On the one hand the military emergency in Aceh has gradually returned the situation to “normal” and made it possible for elections to be held. It would be almost impossible for elections to go ahead in Aceh if the military emergency was revoked. But [on the other hand] said Supriyanto, if the elections are held under a military emergency there are a number of stipulations on the organisation of elections which could be overridden by the emergency military commander.

In accordance with Law Number 23/1959 on a State of Emergency, the emergency military commander has supreme authority. All civilian bodies and civil servants are obliged to obey the military commander. The emergency military commander has the right to limit the printing, distribution and authoring of pictures and writing, prohibit the movement of people and a number of other prohibitions which can hinder the implementation of an election campaign and voting.

Andi Widjajanto, a military observer from the University of Indonesia, admits that the authority of the national and regional emergency military commander is almost unlimited. With the stipulation that all government bodies and civil servants must obey the president [this probably erroneous and should read emergency military commander – JB], it will therefore be difficult for the General Elections Commission (KPU) and Panwas to work independently.

Unlike Supriyanto however, Widjajanto was of the view that it is enough to issue a presidential degree to exempt the KPU and Panwas at the national and local level from these stipulations so that they can still run the general elections in an independent manner.

“The elections and the election campaign can just be monitored by the emergency military commander”, said Widjajanto.

Joint commitment

The secretary general of Path to Peace, Boedi Wilardjo, has proposed that the legal stipulations to regulate the organisation of elections in Aceh do not need to be in the form of legislation. What is most important said Wilardjo, is that there needs to be a joint commitment between the government, the KPU and other concerned parties to find a solution to the these contradictions in the legislation and technical regulations on the organisation of the elections in Aceh. “This commitment can be made and witnessed by members of the DPR”, he said.

The elections in Aceh, continued Wilardjo, could become a political commodity. If less than 50 per cent of people vote this fact could become the basis for a campaign by the Free Aceh Movement to demonstrate the low level of people’s support for the Indonesian government.

On the other hand, pro-democracy groups are also worried that the situation will compel the government to forcibly mobilise the Acehnese people to participate in the campaign and vote on the day of the elections.

Conflict resolution activist, Ichsan Malik, who has been involved in a number of workshops on organising elections in conflict areas, says that there is already a commitment from the military emergency commander to take an independent position and not intervene in the organisation of the elections in Aceh. But in reality, a number of mass organisation and election monitoring organisations who clearly support holding an election in Aceh are still experiencing difficulties obtaining permission from the military emergency commander to organise meetings.

According to Malik, a concern that has emerged among those involved in the elections is that the emergency situation will be used by a specific political parties to assert their closeness with the military. (wis)

[Translated by James Balowski.]