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Aceh political candidates fail Koran test

Jakarta Globe - May 1, 2013

Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – Dozens of legislative candidates vying for the 81 seats in the Aceh provincial legislature in the 2014 general election have flunked a Koran proficiency test – one of the requirements under a local bylaw for running for public office.

Akmal Abzal, a commissioner with the Aceh Independent Elections Commission (KIP), said that 42 of 1,231 people from 12 political parties failed the test. "There were only three political parties whose members all passed the Koran proficiency test 100 percent," Akmal told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

However, Akmal, who is also the chairman of the test committee, refused to disclose the names of the politicians who failed the test or what political parties they were from, citing ethical reasons.

"One thing is certain: There were legislative candidates from a nationalist Islamic party who couldn't read the Koran. There were also legislative candidates from a local party," he said.

The 2014 general election will see 15 parties participate in Aceh, including three local parties – the Aceh Peace Party (PDA), the Aceh National Party (PNA) and the Aceh Party (PA). The rest are national-based parties.

Aceh is the only province in the country allowed to have local parties and the only one that requires the Koran proficiency test for prospective candidates. Akmal said the test was held for three days from Saturday until Monday.

"There was no intervention in the results from anyone because the team of judges worked independently and professionally. Their decision is unanimous and cannot be challenged," said Akmal, adding that the judges were all past winners of Koran recital competitions.

Akmal said that the KIP had held a plenary meeting on the legislative candidates who failed the test and that it would soon notify political parties about their candidates who did not make the cut.

"The parties may replace their legislative candidates who failed the Koran proficiency test with other candidates before the deadline," he said.

Akmal added that 83 out of the 1,231 legislative candidates who were registered did not show up on various excuses, such as falling ill, being on a minor pilgrimage, or umrah, and other reasons.

"We are in the process of verifying their reasons to see whether they hold up. If not, we will drop the candidates," he said. "For those who couldn't show up due to a strong reason, they will be given the chance to take the Koran proficiency test from May 9 to 22 this year."

Akmal added that those who had taken the test but flunked would not have another opportunity to take the test because they had failed to meet the requirement to stand in the election.