Election campaign in Aceh tainted by intimidation, threats

Kompas – January 7, 2009
Rights activists protest against election violence in Aceh (Tribune)
Rights activists protest against election violence in Aceh (Tribune)

Banda Aceh – Intimidation through setting fire to political party offices, banners, billboards and campaign advertising and threats against legislative candidates has tainted the administration of the 2009 elections in Indonesia’s northern-most province of Aceh.

The ordinary people do not have the courage to stand up against this, and the recently established Aceh Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) said that it is unable to take any action whatsoever if there are no reports from residents.

This intimidation was related separately by Aceh People’s Party (PRA) general secretary Thamren Ananda, Bireuen regency Democrat Party regional leadership board chairperson Muhammad Ali and Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) regional advisory board member Raihan Iskandar in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh on Tuesday January 6.

The latest incident was the burning of a PRA billboard and two Aceh Party (established by the Free Aceh Movement, GAM) sagoe (village) offices in South-East Aceh by an unidentified person or persons.

Ananda said that the intimidation that they have been subject to has no just been the disappearance of party flags, but also verbal abuse against its members and residents, who have been intimidated not to vote for a particular party. These threats are rarely disclosed by the mass media.

Iskandar added that as a consequence of this intimidation, residents often prefer that party officials not visit to their homes. “They are afraid of being considered sympathisers of a particular party. If they’re found out, it is dangerous for them and their families”, he reiterated.

Muhammad Ali related how aside from the disappearance of party flags from various parts of Bireuen, Democrat Party legislative candidates have also been intimidated by being asked not to conduct election campaigns. This is not the first time that such incidents have occurred. Ananda stated that intimidation and violence such as this does irreparable damage to democracy.

Aceh Panwaslu chairperson Nyak Arief Fadillah Syah said that up until now they had yet to receive any reports about this intimidation. “The information is still minimal. We cannot take action if there is no official report”, he said.

Nyak Arief warned that the best thing for political parties to do is to compete fairly in order to attract support. Political parties and other parties that carry out intimidation to win over a certain group could end up not being elected by the people. Iskandar also emphasised that the public must oppose such intimidation by specific groups. (mhd)


In a follow up report by Kompas on January 8, the paper reported that the PRA and the Democrat Party have reported the intimidation to Panwaslu, although there was still no mention of who or which groups were responsible.

[Translated by James Balowski.]