Ina Parlina, Jakarta – Internal rifts within the elites of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) that mark the ongoing transfer of power from the group's old guard to the next generation, may weaken the Aceh Party (PA), GAM's political wing and formal presence in the province, a recent report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) has said.
In a report, titled "Political Power Struggles in Aceh", IPAC revealed that the younger members distancing themselves from the old guard could weaken the political party, which was founded by former GAM combatants, and might affect relations with Jakarta.
The report also highlighted ongoing rivalry between Deputy Governor Muzakir Manaf, a former GAM guerrilla commander, and Governor Zaini Abdullah, another GAM veteran. It also said that Muzakir's camp had tried "to rejuvenate the party and bring in younger people".
"As the rift between Muzakir and the old elite deepens, younger members of Aceh Party are trying to find a new basis for unity," IPAC director Sidney Jones said in a press release on Monday. "They also need to make the party less thuggish and more democratic."
She also said that "authority [in Aceh] is now derived more from control over local resources and political institutions than from closeness to GAM's founders and service to the organization".
"If Aceh Party could be cleansed of corruption; infused with a new commitment to democracy – or at least less authoritarian; and staffed by individuals with an ethos of public service rather than entitlement, then perhaps it could help move Aceh toward realizing its potential," the report concluded. According to the report, Aceh needed direct engagement from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
Unlike former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who was personally involved in Aceh because the peace process in the region happened under his watch, Jokowi is likely to pay less attention to Aceh because he is too busy with Palace politics.
Teuku Kemal Fasha, an expert on society and politics in Aceh, concurred with IPAC's report, saying the results in the legislative elections in 2009 and 2014 showed the PA's declining influence.
In the 2009 election, the PA won around 47 percent of the vote, securing 33 out of 69 seats in the Aceh Provincial Legislative Council (DPRA). While in 2014, the PA got only 35 percent of the vote, garnering 29 out of 81 seats at the DPRA.
Fifteen parties participated in the 2014 election in Aceh, comprising 12 national and three local parties.
The power struggle, Teuku added, had also split Aceh into two camps; conservatives and young progressives. The struggle for influence between the two groups is reflected in the rivalry between the governor and deputy governor.
"The central government [eventually] will notice as the administration [in Aceh] stops working effectively [due to the power struggle]," he said.
"Such a power struggle must be anticipated by the Jokowi administration because in an area like Aceh, such matters have the potential to ignite [security] tensions, although it is still on a small scale like criminal acts. People will also feel that having a big [local] budget should also mean improved people's welfare," he added.