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Intimidation, violence tainted election: Activists

Jakarta Post - April 12, 2014

Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh – Although the legislative election in Aceh on Wednesday was regarded as a success due to a lack of serious security issues, it was still marred by violence, intimidation and vote-buying, activists say.

The irregularities were recorded during observations carried out by the Aceh Election Network (JPA), which consists of Achenese civil society organizations including the Aceh Civil Society Task Force (ACSTF), Aceh Institute, Aceh NGO Forum, Banda Aceh Legal Aid Institute, MaTa Aceh and Aceh Female Solidarity.

"Based on data received by our SMS center, various reports indicated that a lot of fraud, intimidation and vote-buying took place during the election in various regions of Aceh," said ACSTF representative Ilham Syahputra on Friday.

According to Ilham, public complaints received by the SMS center indicated that polling in Aceh had yet to run peacefully and democratically. Groups affiliated with the JPA lamented that the election in Aceh, post the peace treaty, was yet be free of intimidation and vote-buying.

They cited an example of intimidation from Gampong Pulo Mangat, North Aceh, at the TPS 27 polling station, committed by a campaign team member from the Aceh Party (PA) who entered and guarded polling booths and forced people to vote for the party.

Based on preliminary data gathered by the JPA, intimidation and violence was committed by local parties, such as the Aceh Party, while vote-buying was carried out by virtually all parties via their legislative candidates and campaign teams in order to obtain seats in the House of Representatives and municipal councils.

"A candidate from a national political party was caught red-handed distributing cash door-to-door to residents between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. [on the night] prior to voting," said Ilham.

Another instance of fraud occurred when ballot papers, which had been marked by other people, were handed to voters to be placed in ballot boxes.

"In addition to intimidation and vote-buying, we also observed the misuse of state and public facilities for campaigning by a particular party," said MaTa representative Hafidh.

According to Hafidh, the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu), one of the stakeholders in the organization of the election, had yet to follow up on the findings although they had been reported – especially those related to intimidation and vote-buying carried out by local and national political parties.

"The problem is that community members are unwilling to become witnesses, as well as a lack of evidence, which is hindering Panwaslu in conducting further investigations," said Hafidh.

Meanwhile, Aceh Female Solidarity, a women's group, found fraudulent practices carried out at the expense of women.

This included party representatives giving women gifts in the form of sarongs, prayer mats and head scarves during religious sermons at village mosques.

"However, the contributions were usually aimed at asking voters to vote for their candidates," said Aceh Female Solidarity representative Rosmidar.

The JPA has asked the election organizers, in this case the Independent Elections Commission, as well as Panwaslu and the Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) to follow up on its findings and take legal action against the offenders.

Security was a concern in Aceh leading up to the legislative election, following a surge in violence, the majority of which involved two local parties – the PA and the Aceh National Party (PNA).

According to the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), there were 48 cases of election-related violence in Aceh from January to March.

The most recent incident took place in early April when three people were killed after the minibus they were traveling in, which was decorated with the image of a PA legislative candidate, was hit by bullets in Bireuen.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/04/12/intimidation-violence-tainted-election-activists.html